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Looking Ahead to Apple Earnings

Tuesday, 19 Jul 2011 | 1:28 PM ET
Apple
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Apple

Here's the thing about Apple's earnings announcement today: It's even more of a puzzle than usual.

Why? Mainly the iPhone.

Typically, Apple introduces a new iPhone at the end of June, creating a revenue surge and bringing lots of traffic to Apple Stores for weeks after.

But this year Apple has delayed the launch of a new iPhone, which raises a few questions:

Will Apple give a lower-than-usual guidance number because of the later iPhone launch? And if so, will that spook the street?

Did iPhone 4 sales come in higher than usual because shoppers weren't expecting a new phone any moment?

Did margins come in higher because of (a) the iPhone 4's longer run (b) higher device volume and (c) low component costs?

And there are more mysteries beyond the iPhone. Apple observers have noted that iPad 2 supply seemed to finally catch up to demand in the back half of the quarter. Last quarter the iPad number was disappointing to a lot of analysts, coming in under 5 million units when they expected more than 7 million. This quarter analysts are back to that 7-8 million number, on iPad expectations. We'll see if Cupertino can deliver.

I'm not going to try to predict how traders will react, but my take on the numbers is this:

Wall Street's expectations for Apple are actually pretty modest, as long as the iPhone had a decent quarter. As we saw with IBMearnings last night, companies with strong global presence are getting a powerful currency tailwind, and with Apple's continuing Asia expansion, it should benefit, too. Add in the fact that Apple's cash hoard is likely to go above 70 billion dollars, and, well — it's going to be an interesting report.

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.comAnd you can follow Jon Fortt on Twitter @jonfortt

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