FORTUNE -- For Fortune's 20th consecutive Apple (AAPL) Earnings Smackdown, we've started to collect estimates for fiscal Q4 2013 from our roster of professional and amateur analysts. The actual results are coming later than usual this year; Apple's fiscal 2013 ended on Saturday Sept. 28., and the results won't be known until Monday Oct. 28.
In the numbers we've seen so far, the conservative pros and the more bullish amateurs are in closer alignment than in the past. Their biggest disagreement is over Apple's gross margin, a measure of the efficiency with which the company turns sales into profits.
The average GM estimate among the professionals is 36.8% -- the high end, per Apple's latest SEC advisory, of the 34-37% guidance the company offered in July.
The average among the amateurs is 37.4% -- above the top of Apple's range.
The attached chart comes from Wells Fargo's Maynard Um, who addressed the gross margin question Tuesday and offered some bullish forecasts for the next two quarters:
iPhone launch quarters typically have accounting headwinds that ease in "s" cycles; historically, "s" versions drive better gross margins. Historically, the quarter of an iPhone launch has seen accounting gross margin headwinds (which, in our opinion, makes Apple's September quarter gross margins more impressive). If our accounting reversal assumptions are correct and assuming 5s/c mix goes to two-thirds of iPhone volumes, we believe December corporate gross margins could be 39.6% (versus our 38.3% estimate)--or $0.56 in incremental EPS--without calculating any potential incremental benefits from deferred margin on component sale or warranty accruals.
The March quarter could see even greater upside potential as warranty accruals have typically seen material decreases per unit in the third quarter following an "s" version launch, which could lead to the March quarter corporate gross margin hitting 40% (versus our 38.5% estimate)--a level not seen since September 2012. While the reversals of these can vary, if we just take a holistic step back, we note that gross margins have gone up by an average of 225bps in the two quarters of launch in an "s" cycle versus the two quarters of launch in a new form factor iPhone where gross margins have decreased by an average of 225bps. Gross margin improvements, particularly if they get to 40%+ would, in our opinion, dispel high-end smartphone commoditization fears.
Estimates range from 3.8 to 4.6 million. The consensus: 4.2 million, an all-time high
The Mac was hot seller last Christmas. But it was even hotter in the June quarter, according to most of the 43 analysts we polled in advance of our quarterly earnings smackdown.
Thirty of them are calling for Apple (AAPL) to set an all-time record for computers sold when it releases its earnings for fiscal Q3 next Tuesday.
Even MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 14, 2011 12:44 PM ET
When you look at the market caps of its competitors, the picture is pretty clear
UBS's Maynard Um posted two interesting charts in a note to clients Monday.
The first compares the growth in Apple's value since 2007 with its chief competitors in the PC and handset businesses.
Apple's (AAPL) market capitalization (calculated by multiplying its share price by the number of shares outstanding) now stands at $327 billion, making it the world's MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 12, 2011 7:49 AM ET
According to one analyst, every 100,000 extra units sold adds 2 cents to Q2's EPS
The new crop of MacBook Pros arrived early this year, with six weeks still left to run in Apple's (AAPL) second fiscal quarter.
Last year the line was updated on April 13, well into the company's third fiscal quarter. The two previous refreshes also came in fiscal Q3.
Why is this significant?
Because, as UBS's Maynard Um points out MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 25, 2011 9:53 AM ET
Google and Microsoft are gaining, says an analyst. Sony, Amazon, Samsung are dark horses
Apple's (AAPL) tightly integrated software and content ecosystem is the template by which a UBS team led by Maynard Um judged the key players in the battle they see "brewing among the mega caps to own the consumer" in what they call the global digital living room.
"We believe the 'holy grail' for these vendors," they write in MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 1, 2010 5:42 AM ET
The iPad is still picking up steam, says an analyst, cutting into sales of every PC but the Mac
Following up on a report issued Tuesday in which he cut his personal computer sales forecast for the second time in two months, Barclays Ben Reitzes took a closer look Wednesday at what it means for Apple (AAPL). In a note to clients, he writes:
"Given the BYOPC (buy your own) trend, international MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Sep 8, 2010 12:21 PM ET
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