Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

All eyes on Apple Inc.

January 27, 2014: 10:15 AM ET

Can Cupertino still pull a rabbit out of the hat? We'll find out this afternoon.

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 8.12.32 AMFORTUNE -- "We believe fundamentally that people love surprises." 

That was Tim Cook explaining to ABC's David Muir Friday why he wasn't going to answer any questions about future devices. Like Steve Jobs, Cook believes in the big reveal, on stage, with the global media watching -- at least when it comes to new products and services.

For quarterly financial results -- like the ones Apple (AAPL) is scheduled to release after the markets close today -- Cook seems to prefer playing it safe.

While Jobs was running the show, Apple was famous for low-balling quarterly earnings and astonishing Wall Street three months later when the results came in. But that only works if 1) the Street doesn't get wise and 2) the results actually are astonishing, which in recent quarters they haven't been.

So in 2013, Cook changed the game. For the last three quarters, Apple has offered analysts a range of guidance numbers and reported results at or near the top end of that range.

Most analysts surveyed -- both by Fortune and by Thomson Financial, expect Apple to do the same today. Apple guided revenues for fiscal Q1 2014 between $55 billion and $58 billion. The Street's consensus, according to Thomson, is $57.46 billion. In our survey, it's $58.10.

Could this quarter be different? A lot of Apple investors certainly hope so. And so do Bernstein's Toni Sacconaghi and Credit Suisse's Kulbinder Garcha. They're betting Apple will beat the top end of its guidance range by $1.32 billion and $1.88 billion, respectively. See Spreadsheet of the day: Final estimates for Apple's fiscal Q1 2014.

Source: Thomson Financial via Yahoo Finance.

Source: Thomson Financial via Yahoo Finance.

And what about next quarter? We haven't started gathering March numbers yet, but according to Thomson Financial, the Street is looking for Q2 earnings of $10.93 on sales of $47.05 billion.

The way Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster figures it, that means Apple's Q2 2014 guidance range will be $44-$47 billion.

Anything higher would be a surprise.

Apple's earnings will be released on the business wires at about 4:30 p.m. Eastern. The earning call with analysts begins at 5 p.m. We'll be tuning in. You can too. Click here.

Below: A summary of our survey results.

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 9.44.32 AM

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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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