Tech Check

Apple Earnings Good -- but Good Enough?

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Let me just say from the very outset: any other publicly traded company would kill for growth like this, products like these, customers like those who can't seem to snap up Apple gear fast enough.

But Apple is hardly just "any other publicly traded company," and, like it or not, the company is different -- so investors "think different" when it comes to Apple.

The company beat Wall Street expectations by 9 cents a share, reporting $1.16 against the $1.07 the Street was looking for.

That news came on dramatically better than expected revenue of $7.5 million, versus the $6.95 million consensus.

Apple met or beat soundly, in all three key product categories. Mac sales surged again, reaching 2.29 million units on the quarter. Analysts anticipated 2.1 million units. IPhone units right at expectations with 1.7 million units. Sales of the iPod, which were supposed to be slowing and weaker this quarter, reached 10.6 million units when analysts expected 10 million instead.

Guidance was also good: the company is normally always very conservative when it comes to outlook. Some say Apple purposely sandbags the Street so it becomes an easy "beat" when the time comes. Wall Street isn't fooled.

The company now expects $1 a share in its fiscal third quarter. The Street was looking for $1.10. That EPS number should come up significantly, however, when you look to see what Apple anticipates for revenue in its third quarter: $7.2 billion. Analysts anticipated just over $5 billion. That's a substantial difference in Apple's favor.

But as can be the case with a company like Apple, investors were hoping for even more. Gene Munster, managing director and senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, suggested the second quarter revenue was a little light. But he said that should be more than offset by such robust revenue guidance.

Robert Stimpson, a portfolio manager at Oak Associates, who owns some Apple shares, says the report seemed in line, with 51 percent Mac unit growth "very strong" -- but with shares up 41 percent since mid-February, it's going to take a lot of good news to get these shares going again.

Still, that Mac growth is the best this company has seen in eight years. But Wall Street just seems to want more, always. And see more of that top line transferred to the bottom line.

Beating the top line by a half-billion dollars, but only beating the bottom line by 7 cents is a little disappointing, one analyst told me. Apple says it sees third quarter gross margins flat at 32.9 percent, which were slightly lower than last quarter's 35 percent. Good, but not good enough.

Or even: great -- but not good enough.

I wrote yesterday about "whipsawed" Apple investors. But the past month is nothing compared to what they're feeling in the moments these earnings were announced: up $10, then $4, now in the red in after-market trading. Look for the neck braces tomorrow and chances are, that person is an investor in Apple.

Questions?  Comments?