Will a Verizon iPhone be announced next Tuesday?

Apple is blacking out employee vacation dates in early February, and Verizon is inviting media to New York City next Tuesday for "the latest Verizon news." So, iPhone lovers, you know what that means.

It must mean, according to bloggers and pundits, that Verizon and Apple will finally announce that the iPhone, which has only been available in the U.S. on AT&T, will become available on Verizon's network. There's even a date for the launch: Thursday, February 3.

QUIZ: How well do you know the iPhone?

If the newly inflamed speculation proves true, this would mean, technically, that Apple is releasing iPhone 4 models with a CDMA radio, presumably exclusively for Verizon in the U.S., as today's iPhone is exclusive to AT&T's GSM network.

The new round of rumor and hope was fueled today by a report at BoyGeniusReport.com, where a post claimed that a "source close to Apple" had "confirmed" that the company was blocking some employee vacation requests, presumably for staffers in Apple's retail stores, from Thursday Feb. 3 through Sunday Feb. 6. The inference drawn by BGR is that this action would ensure fully-staffed stores to support a major announcement – in this case selling and activating CDMA phones for Verizon.

About two hours later, John Paczkowski, a blogger at the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital site, posted an invitation he received from Verizon Wireless.

The invitation adopts a minimalist approach: "Join us as we share the latest news from Verizon Wireless." No other details about what the news is. The sharing will take place at New York City's Lincoln Center (Frederick P. Rose Hall) on Tuesday, Jan. 11, at 11 am. It will be hosted by Verizon President and COO Lowell McAdam.

In his post, Paczkowski says "sources close to the company tell me this will indeed prove to be the long-rumored Verizon iPhone announcement."

Estimates of how many iPhones Verizon might sell have been all over the map. But according to one analysis, selling a lot of them is critical to Verizon's future.

ANALYSIS: Android knocking on iPhone's door

Horace Dediu, founder and managing director for Asymco, a Helsinki, Finland mobile app production studio and industry advisory firm, recently sifted some new data that, he argues, show how iPhone's spectacular success on AT&T has robbed Verizon of its growth, even with the influx of popular Android-based handsets from several manufacturers.

How many iPhones will Verizon sell?

"[M]y conclusion remains that iPhone will find at least 8 million new users [in 12 months] with Verizon," Dediu writes. "The analysis above gives me confidence to increase the upper bound to possibly 12 million."

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for "Network World."Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwEmail: john_cox@nww.comBlog RSS feed

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