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Laptops, iPads Figure to Drive Apple's Tuesday Earnings Briefing

Laptops, iPads Figure to Drive Apple's Tuesday Earnings Briefing
Here are some talking points that could come up when Apple executives discuss earnings for the company’s fiscal third quarter.
By Lex Friedman
News Jul 24th 2012

If you're interested not just in Apple's product announcements but also its balance sheet, you're likely counting down the hours until Apple's quarterly earnings briefing on Tuesday. That's when Apple CEO Tim Cook is joined by chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer to let analysts know how their company performed over the last three months. 

The announcement usually features Cook and Oppenheimer detailing Apple's achievements over the past quarter before they take questions from analysts, at least one of whom will doubtlessly try--unsuccessfully--to get Apple to comment on rumored products. Macworld will have live coverage of that call--including the questions Apple executives actually answer--at 2 p.m. Pacific (5 p.m. Eastern).

The format for these conference calls is pretty well set. The subject matter, on the other hand, is up in the air. Here are some talking points that could come up when Apple executives discuss earnings for the company's fiscal third quarter.

Mountain Lion
Quarterly earnings are where Apple looks back, not ahead. So why would the company talk about the arrival of its upcoming OS X update when it normally goes to great lengths not to talk about future products during its earnings calls?

Because it's done so before. Last year, Apple used its third-quarter conference call to announce the ship date for its OS X Lion update--Mac OS X 10.7 arrived on the Mac App Store the day after the conference call with analysts. 

Will history repeat itself? We couldn't say for certain, but Apple has told the world that Mountain Lion will arrive in July. And it takes only a glance at the calendar to see that August isn't that far off in the future. 

New Macs
Apple's third quarter runs from April to June. It was until near the end of that period--June 11--that Apple released updated MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, and the new MacBook Pro with Retina display. So only a few weeks of sales for those Macs will be included in Tuesday's earnings report. Still, it could prove illustrative on what the demand is like for Apple's new notebooks. 

Despite the lack of other major new Mac hardware during the quarter, expect two familiar Apple tropes to remain consistent--that approximately half of all Mac purchases in the quarter were to customers buying their first Macs, and that Apple's growth in Mac sales outpaced the rest of the PC industry. For what it's worth, industry analysts project that the overall market for PCs shrank during the last three months. 

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