With iPad mini behind it, Apple prepares for earnings report

Apple’s been busy this week — unveiling a new iPad and refreshing a few more product lines — and they aren’t done yet. The company is reporting its quarterly earnings Thursday, and analysts will be closely watching the company’s sales figures for the iPhone and iPad.

Analysts are predicting a solid, if not spectacular, quarter for the company. The consensus on Apple earnings is that the company will post around $36.6 billion revenue and at least 25 million in iPhone sales.

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As for iPad sales, several analysts have lowered their estimates after Apple chief executive Tim Cook gave a small preview of Thursday’s earnings call at Tuesday's announcement of the iPad mini.

Cook said that Apple, as of two weeks ago, had sold 100 million iPads — indicating that sales may be lower than analysts had originally expected.

In a note sent to investors after the iPad mini event, Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu lowered his estimate for iPad shipments to 15.8 million units from 16.5 million units. Ahead of the event, other estimates for the iPad had been even higher — in some cases as high as 18 million.

Wu said that the lower sales were likely due, at least in part, to lower production, while the company devoted resources to ramping production for the iPad mini. Consumer expectation for the smaller iPad, rumored well ahead of its official Tuesday launch, may also have impacted iPad sales.

Apple watchers will also be listening to see if Apple discloses how many iPhone 5 units it has sold so far. Only early iPhone 5 sales will be in this earnings report for the September quarter, but the handset did have a record-breaking first weekend of sales.

The earnings report from Verizon Wireless earlier this month also indicated that consumers were still interested in older iPhones before the iPhone 5 hit store shelves — meaning that Apple may have weathered the normal “transition” slowdown between devices a little better than it normally does.

The most important quarter for Apple — and all technology companies — is on the horizon, as they gear up for the holiday season. Analysts may have questions for the company about its revamped schedule for iPad releases and the pricing strategy on the iPad mini — questions that consumers will want answers for as well.

But it will be interesting to see if Apple can join Facebook as the only major tech company to surpass expectations for the quarter. Google and Microsoft both missed analyst expectations for the September quarter last week, and Apple’s stock has taken a hit since its Tuesday event.

The company’s stock passed the $700 mark last month but has slipped since then, opening at $620 in Thursday trading.

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