Its quarterly report is a reality check on three months of fear, uncertainty and doubt.
FORTUNE -- Today at about 4:30 p.m. ET, Apple (AAPL) will report its earnings for the June quarter, three months about which the best thing that can be said, as far as Wall Street and much of the business press are concerned, is that things weren't quite as bad as they seemed.
According to both Thomson Finance and Fortune's analyst survey, the Street is expecting Apple to report earnings of about $7.30 per share on sales of $35 billion -- the first time in a decade that earnings have fallen year over year for two quarters in a row.
At 5 p.m. ET (2 p.m. PT), Tim Cook is scheduled to take questions from sell-side analysts in an hour-long conference call that everyone is invited to audit (click the image above for a link to the webcast).
Among the issues he's likely to be asked about:
- Future products: What analysts want most -- and what Cook is least likely to give them -- is confirmation of the rumors they've been retailing to clients for months: About the so-called iPhone 5S. About a lower-cost iPhone. About fingerprint recognition. About a watch. About -- God help us -- a TV set.
- Guidance: Don't be surprised if Wall Street quickly absorbs -- if not actively ignores -- any good news in Apple's report. So what if the company sold more iPhones last quarter than anticipated? What traders really want to know is what kind of signal Apple is sending about the September quarter; that's what will drive the stock tomorrow. So if any of those signals are less positive (or more negative) than expected, the guys (and the one gal) on the conference call will want to know why.
- Stock buyback. Three months ago, Apple surprised Wall Street by announcing a record-breaking $60-billion stock repurchase program. What the company didn't announce is when and at what rate it would be buying those shares -- facts that have a direct effect on the company's closely watched earnings per share ratio. Investors who hoped that by entering the market last quarter Apple would return their holdings to their former glory have been -- to say the least -- disappointed.
- Gross margin. Analysts can be expected to ask the same question today that they asked three months ago: What happened to Apple's famous profit margins? This time last year Apple reported a gross margin of 42.8%. The quarter before that it hit an astonishing 47.4%. In this context the 36% to 37% the company offered as guidance for the June quarter was taken as proof by more than one commentator that Apple is doomed -- this despite the fact that if its competitors turned revenue into profits half as efficiently as Apple does in a bad quarter, they would be popping champagne.
We'll be monitoring the earnings call, and you can too. Here's the link: Apple Financial Results Q2 2013.
Come back Wednesday morning to find out how accurately our panel of analysts predicted the results.