Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

All eyes on Apple's earnings: Estimates are sharply divided

July 24, 2012: 8:31 AM ET

The pros are looking for earnings of $10.33 on sales of $37B. The indies are at $12.31 and $41.5B.

Click to enlarge. Source: Asymco via http://pixxa.com/perspective

FORTUNE -- It's one of the most closely watched corporate events of the season: Apple's (AAPL) earnings report for the most recent quarter, set for release after the markets close today. It will be followed, I'd wager, by more analysts, investors and fund managers than the earnings statements of any other public company, large or small.

To prepare for the report, I've gathered the estimates of 68 Apple analysts -- half of them professionals who follow the company for banks or brokerage houses, and half independents, a collection of day traders, bloggers and individual investors who do it for fun and, we assume, their own profit.

We've posted the results below the fold, sorted this time by the bottom line -- earnings per share -- with the pros in blue and the indies in green.

What stands out when sorted this way is how sharply divided the estimates are, with the more bullish indies clustered on the top and the more cautious pros -- with one exception -- on the bottom.

If you look at average estimates for each category, from revenue to gross margin, you can see that the biggest gaps are in EPS and iPad unit sales. There's a general consensus that the growth in iPad sales will be the big story this quarter, but considerable disagreement about big it will turn out to have been.

The other number to watch is iPhone unit sales. Again, there's a consensus that iPhone sales will be down from last quarter's 35 million, but because the iPhone contributes more half of Apple's revenue (57.9% in fiscal Q2) and an even larger share of its profits, small differences in unit sales can lead to big differences on the bottom line.

Finally,  I'd like to say a word about how I gather these estimates.

Some come by e-mail (or via the Braeburn Group's Robert Paul Leitao) as simple lists of seven numbers. Some come in the form of elaborate spreadsheets. Some I extract from the notes the pros send to clients -- and, helpfully, to Fortune's hard-working library staff --  offering varying levels of explanatory detail.

But nobody offers more detail than Horace Dediu, who discusses his methodology on his Asymco blog and his Critical Path podcast. He set a new high bar for clarity and expository detail Monday by delivering his latest estimates in the form of a "padcast" -- an iPad slideshow (with audio commentary) presented via Pixxa's new Perspective app. The app is free. Dediu's presentation is $0.99. (The revenue screen grab at the top of this post was taken from the app.)

Below the fold:  The full list of analysts estimates. We'll find out whose were closest to the mark when the earnings hit the business wires this afternoon, most likely around 4:30 p.m. Eastern. An earnings call with analysts is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. You can listen in on the webcast here. We'll be posting our quarterly Earnings Smackdown -- ranking the analysts' performances from best to worst -- the next morning.

Click to enlarge.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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