The Apple (AAPL) release has been the best earnings party of the quarterly reporting season for the last few years, and Oppenheimer analyst Yair Reiner expects more of the same tonight.
Contrary to rumors circulating Wednesday morning, what we're most likely to hear is that the iPhone 5 will be coming out in June or July this year, with the iPhone 6 appearing in 2012 at about the same time, said the Apple axe. That's about the only potential problem Reiner sees ahead of Apple's upcoming earnings report -- for which analysts on average are calling for a profit of $5.36 a share and sales of $23.3 billion for the quarter.
"I think it's been a very strong quarter for iPhone sales," he said.
Reiner sees no credible threat in the rapidly growing tablet space, despite concerns that supply chain disruptions in Japan could derail iPad 2 shipments by months. Apple seldom breaks out specific information on suppliers, but Reiner is confident the company can handle any hiccups.
The iPad 2 has been out of stock and experienced scarcity issues since its March release. A visit to the online Apple store indicates the iPad 2 is shipping "2-3 weeks" after an order is placed, an improvement over the month-plus gap between order and shipment a month ago.
Reiner doesn't see delays, to the extent they exist, as a threat to Apple's dominant position in the nascent tablet space. The analyst notes that Apple hasn't given the competition the luxury of above-average price points in tablets the way the company did, and does, in laptops and desktops. If a competitor is going to beat Apple in the marketplace for tablets, it's going to have to do it on product quality, rather than by undercutting the iPad on price. Traditionally Apple boot-stomps and generally humiliates those bold enough to try and out-design the company.
Potential disappointments? Reiner is looking past the supply chain issues, but sees an atypical lag in orders for Apple's iPhone for Verizon (VZ). That said, he does point out that AT&T (T) phone orders have been surprisingly strong.
He also says that it's going to take some time for Apple to gain a foothold in the corporate space. Unlike consumers, corporations have been slow to pay up for Apple products vs. cheaper PC competitors.
Apple's stock has been somewhat tired of late, and it remains down roughly 6% since the Japanese tsunami, even as other companies have recovered. Tune in to Apple's earnings call tonight, and be sure to watch the stock. Apple is one of, if not the, most important companies extant in terms of setting the tone. What it says tonight will likely dictate the immediate future of the tech-laden Nasdaq and the market as a whole.
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