Apple's Completely, Utterly, Hopelessly Pointless Quarter Is Coming

Business Insider

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By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If you'll indulge me...

Tiger Woods is no longer Tiger Woods. He's very good, probably the best golfer on the planet, but he's not Tiger F. Woods. 

He comes up small on the weekends of majors, playing more like Brandt Snedeker than a golfer who is in the conversation as the greatest of all time. (That is, he plays well enough to sneak into the top ten, but not anywhere near well enough to win.)

Despite Tiger's struggles, he's still the most compelling man in golf. His icy demeanor, his attempt to capture five more majors, his talent, his struggles, they all add up to something that's electric, despite the so-so play. 

Now, Apple. 

For years, Apple was a mind-melting company that always destroyed expectations. It was history in the making, and it was awe-inspiring. Just like the old Tiger. 

Lately, Apple has become just another company. It's still (arguably) the best tech company in the world, but it's not the. best. tech. company. in the world, period. Its earnings are missing estimates, guidance is lower than expected, and in general a bit more, meh. Just like the new Tiger.

Yet, Apple remains the most compelling story in tech. Its earnings still get more page views than any other company's earnings. It's still the company that tells you where the industry is at. 

And so, when it reports its least important earnings of the year Tuesday afternoon, it's still going to be a must-watch event.

That said, this quarter has almost no drama for Apple.

There was no iPhone update, no iPad update, no anything. The dividend and buyback are old news. 

The stock, which was in free fall, pretty much stabilized. Not that that's any consolation. This time last year, it was on its way to $700. Today it's trapped at $425. (It went as high as $463, before crashing again to $425, but relatively to the drop from $700, that's a blip.)

So, what are looking for from Apple? The hard numbers are below.

In terms of not so hard numbers, we're looking for some sort of hint about the future from Apple. We're not likely to get much that's new.

On the last earnings call, CEO Tim Cook told the world nothing new was coming until the fall and in 2014. Since then, he's spoken at the D Conference, and Apple had its Worldwide Developer Conference.

At both events, Apple failed to suggest much in terms of a timeline. But, maybe its guidance will give us a clue about whether the next iPhone comes this quarter or next.

Here are the numbers analysts are expecting via Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. (Whisper is Munster's survey of 20 buy-side analysts):

  • Revenue:  $35.18 billion expected by sell-side analysts. Whisper is $37 billion.  Apple's guidance is $34.5 billion (midpoint).
  • EPS: $7.34 expected by sell-side analysts . 
  • iPhone units: 26 million  expected by  sell-side analysts . Whisper is 26.5 million.
  • iPad units: 18.3 million  expected by  sell-side analysts . Whisper is 18 million. 
  • Gross Margin: 37% expected by sell-side, and it's the whisper number, too. Apple guided to 36.5% midpoint on margin for the quarter.
  • Mac units: 3.9 million  expected by  sell-side analysts, and it's the whisper number, too.
  • September quarter revenue: $37.9 billion  expected by  sell-side analysts . Whisper is $37 billion.
  • September quarter gross margin: 37%  expected by  sell-side analysts . 

We'll have live coverage of Apple's earnings, complete with all the numbers as soon as is humanly possible (if not sooner), so tune in!

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