FORTUNE -- Apple's (AAPL) share price got clobbered in after-hours trading three months ago when the company announced its earnings for the Christmas quarter. The problem was not the record sales of Macs, iPads and iPhones -- although the iPhone numbers came in a bit lighter than expected.
No, what knocked nearly $45 billion off Apple's market cap that night was Apple's "guidance" for the March quarter -- the sales and profit margin numbers it suggested investors could look forward to later this week, when it reports its second fiscal quarter results of 2014.
If Steve Jobs were still running the company, Wall Street might have discounted those forward looking statements, knowing that Jobs liked to low-ball his guidance numbers so as to maximize the upside "surprise" when Apple hit them out of the park.
But Tim Cook doesn't seem to like surprises; he prefers more "realistic" guidance. So when outgoing CFO Peter Oppenheimer said Apple would probably generate revenues between $42 and $44 billion in Q2 2014 -- no better than it did in the same quarter last year -- Wall Street took him at his word and started dumping the stock.
The lesson was not lost on the amateur and professional analysts we polled in advance of Wednesday's earnings call. Their revenue and earnings estimates in the Jobs era were all over the lot. Starting in Q2 2013, however lines representing the two groups in the attached charts began to converge and are now nearly congruent.
So what are our analysts expecting this week?
No surprises, that's for sure. The average revenue estimate of the 37 analysts we've heard from so far -- 14 amateurs and 23 pros -- is 43.5 billion, just above the midpoint of Oppenheimer's range.
The amateurs, as usual, are a bit more bullish. They're calling for earnings of $10.53 per share on sales of $43.66 billion. The pros are not far behind: earnings of $10.18 on sales of $43.42 billion.
High estimate: The Braeburn Group's Patrick Smellie at earnings per share of $11.05. Low: Credit Suisse's Kulbinder Garcha with a $9.66 EPS.
We'll post the full spreadsheet with all the analysts estimates later this week. And on Wednesday, we'll find out who was closest to the mark.
And what about the June quarter?
In a note to clients Monday, Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster predicted that Apple's guidance would once again disappoint. He's expecting revenue guidance of $35.5-$37.5 billion, a bit lower than the Street's $38.3 billion, and gross margin guidance of 36.5-37.5%, with a bit more upside than the Street's 36.5%.
Estimates range from $4 billion to nearly $5 billion, but growth continues to slow.
FORTUNE -- Apple's (AAPL) No. 4 revenue stream -- after the iPhone, iPad and Mac -- is a line item the company calls iTunes, Software and Services.
The category is something of a hodgepodge -- a grab bag where the company tosses, to quote from a footnote in its SEC filings, "revenue generated by sales on the iTunes Store, the App Store, the Mac App Store and the iBookstore, plus revenue from sales MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 20, 2014 2:29 AM ET
Note the entry for 2007: "iPhone launches, the world changes."
FORTUNE -- The point in the attached chart -- at Q4 2013 -- where the rising blue tide touches the fading brown line represents a milestone in the history of telephony, according to mobile analyst Chetan Sharma. That's when mobile carriers started making more money moving customers' data than they made selling voice-calling plans.
Sharma predicts that the U.S. this year will MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 14, 2014 6:23 AM ET
How the sources of Apple's revenue shifted between 2010 and 2014.
FORTUNE -- Following up on Wednesday's snapshot of Apple's (AAPL) Q1 revenue by region -- which saw Greater China grow 29% and the Americas shrink 1% -- I've gathered the past four years of a data and summarized them in three charts.
The top graph shows revenue by operating segment (i.e. geographical region plus retail). The bottom shows share of revenue MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 30, 2014 6:23 AM ET
Average estimate: $14.32 per share on sales of $57.9B. Apple's guidance: $55 to $58B.
FORTUNE -- On Monday, after the markets close, Apple (AAPL) is scheduled to announce its results for the first fiscal quarter of 2014, and we'll get to test not just the forecasts of our cadre of Apple analysts -- a mix of pros and amateurs -- but the accuracy of Apple's predictions under the new regime.
In the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 24, 2014 9:52 AM ET
As it moves further away from auctions, investors wait to see if the company can grow into its e-commerce and mobile payments business.
By Kevin Kelleher, contributor
FORTUNE -- It has not been a terrific year for eBay (EBAY), but more of a middling one. After years of restructuring the company and retooling its offerings, the e-commerce company seems to be hitting something of a soft patch that, while far from derailing MOREKevin Kelleher - Oct 23, 2013 5:00 AM ET
Also share of mobile revenues and phones shipped, as estimated by Horace Dediu
Click to enlarge.
FORTUNE -- On Wednesday, when we posted Horace Dediu's "fuzzy snapshot" of the worldwide mobile phone market by units shipped, we wondered what the chart would look like if Dediu was graphing instead mobile phone profits.
We didn't have to wait long for an answer. The next day, Dediu's Asymco website offered a multipart graph of the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Aug 22, 2013 7:25 AM ET
Remember those headlines about Samsung "dethroning" Apple in profits? Forget them.
FORTUNE -- If anyone can draw a picture that puts to lie Strategy Analytic's claim -- widely reported in the tech press -- that Samsung has become the world's most profitable smartphone vendor, Horace Dediu can.
The chart above was adapted from That Competition Thing, a post on his Asymco.com blog that compared the top and bottom lines of Apple (AAPL), Amazon MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Aug 4, 2013 6:20 AM ET
iTunes, Software, Services has become Apple's fastest growing revenue stream.
FORTUNE -- Analysts tend to think of the iTunes store as a metaphor. It's a "moat" that protects Apple (AAPL) from competitors. Or something "sticky" -- like honey or flypaper -- that keeps fickle customers from flying away.
But since Apple reclassified its revenues in January and consolidated iTunes, Software and Services into one line item, it's become clear that iTunes is MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 21, 2013 7:32 AM ET
A round-up of the analysts' revenue and earnings forecasts for Apple's June quarter.
FORTUNE -- When it comes to quarterly earnings reports, Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOG) can be tough acts to follow.
Not this quarter.
Wounded each in their own way by the shift from desktop to mobile computing, both companies reported disappointing earnings Thursday, and their shares fell sharply in after-hours trading -- Google by $37.81 (-4.15%) and Microsoft by $2.23 (-6.29%).
Apple (AAPL) MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 19, 2013 5:50 AM ET
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