Apple iPad third-quarter earningsJust how high can Apple (AAPL) go? That's the question on investors' minds heading into Monday's earnings report, which is expected to reveal the not-shocking fact that Apple's iPad and iPhone devices continue to sell wildly.

Although much of the U.S. economy remains sluggish, the recession appears to have passed over One Infinite Loop, Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Indeed, 2010 has surely been of the strongest years in Apple's history, and the company's shares have broken the $300 barrier and show no sign of stopping their ascent.

Apple shares jumped 4% on Friday, Oct. 15, in anticipation of another strong earnings report, and they kept going after-hours, finally hitting $316.40.

Will "Supply Constraints" Hurt?

As usual, expectations are high, but Apple has a way of exceeding already optimistic hopes, partially because it's an inveterate low-baller of financial expectations. Last quarter, Apple absolutely obliterated Wall Street expectations.

Pacific Crest Securities analyst Andy Hargreaves said he expects another strong quarter, if not as powerful as last, partially because Apple is literally having trouble producing enough products to meet consumer demand. "I don't think it will be a big as what we've seen in the past, at least relative to our numbers, because of supply constraints early in the quarter," Hargreaves told Reuters.

Analysts will want to hear how strong iPhone sales have been in the face of the onslaught of competing devices that run Google's (GOOG) Android operating system. Wall Street is looking for iPhone shipments in the 11 million to 12 million range. If Verizon Wireless begins offering the iPhone next year, as expected, that could add another 10 million units to 2010 iPhone sales projections.

As far the the iPad is concerned, Apple has had a bit of a honeymoon period because it was the first company to take tablet computers truly mainstream. Analysts are looking for 3.5 million to 4 million Mac computers sold.

Analysts polled by Reuters expect Apple to report earnings of $4.08 a share on revenue of $18.9 billion. StarMine's SmartEstimate, which polls a selection of top-rated analysts, calls for Apple to report EPS of $4.17 on revenue of $19.1 billion. Soon enough, everyone will know whether Apple keeps up its streak of beating Wall Street's already lofty expectations.

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Why the heck should analysts be concerned what the ratio of iPhones sold is to Android smartphones. Their prices are different. Many are sold as BOGO. The analysts need to get it into their head that Apple is not Google or Microsoft with some dominate market share at any cost attitude. Apple is going to totally punk out the analysts and pundits by building as many devices as they can possibly sell without running into component shortages. I think all the lucky smartphone vendors have had that problem the last quarter. When I say lucky is that if you have a high enough unexpected demand, components can just run out. Apple is doing great with the iPad because there is no competition and should do even better for the holiday season. iPad sales are going to eat into a lot of different devices that aren't put out by Apple. The analysts are always lurking around looking for something to find fault with Apple. They're not going to find anything this time around. Apple will blow out its numbers and possibly reach $340 a share by this evening. Not a bad rise for long investors.

October 18 2010 at 11:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply