We know what's happened to Apple recently: The company has released a carefully updated edition of many of its core products, over the course of the last eight months (starting with the iPad 2), culminating in the launch of the iPhone 4S. In between the reveal of this phone and it actually going on sale, legendary Apple CEO and cofounder Steve Jobs passed away, finally losing his protracted battle with cancer and its side effects. The iPhone 4S has become Apple's best-selling iPhone, and if its sales trajectory continues is tipped to become the hottest selling gadget ever. Some of this will be contained in Apple's quarterly financial report, explicitly in the figures, some of it is likely to be described in supporting discussions, other features won't surface.
What's expected of Apple today is actually fairly typical: Analysts consensus is that Apple's earnings for the quarter will easily top $29 billion, up over 44% on the same period for 2010. City watchers will be looking at this growth figure, trying to divine if there's any hint of a larger economic recession contained here—but we can draw some positive vibes from Google's recent finances which actually bested analyst expectations of a slight slowdown in Google's revenue growth that was also tipped as an indicator of recession.
In terms of actual sales, Apple's expected to report significant upticks in its traditional core Mac product line, based on recent statistics that show the Mac gaining market share, and seeing increased sales, even as the rest of the PC market stalls. iPad figures will also fold into this revenue report, as the market expects Apple's market lead in the tablet game it helped create to continue unchallenged by any serious competition.
iPhone sales are also expected to be strong, despite (or possibly because of) the protracted delay in the arrival of the iPhone 4S, which came after 15 months instead of the habitual 12-month cycle, and the fact that the press spun up an enormous amount of hype about the (then) upcoming device. In terms of actual numbers, figures like 20 to 22 million iPhones, 4 million Macs, and 10 million iPads are expected.
The iPhone 4S went on sale after the last quarter closed, so an upside in the iPhone figures will appear in the next quarter's results. And that's actually the fiscal flavor of what's expected today: Strong performance, with a typical Apple profile of beating market expectations and its own slightly conservative preditcions. In short, it's business as usual for Apple.
Except that we know that's not the case. While Steve Jobs and his management team had been carefully maneuvering for his health-related departure from management for some time, and new CEO Tim Cook has to all intents and purposes been running the company for well over a year, the dreaded event has finally happened. We can expect to hear a few words about this during the call...but probably not much. Cook and his team will want to show deference to Jobs, of course, but it's also critical that they demonstrate cohesion and strength, combined with a definite future direction both in terms of management and the company's products.
As such we don't really expect Jobs to be a central theme of the report. But we'd love to hear a few other things that probably won't get mentioned: First among these is Apple's set-top box product, the Apple TV. This has repeatedly been defined by Apple as a "hobby" project, but seems to be selling well—and many an analysis, including here at Fast Company, has spotted that the TV has huge upside potential, if Apple embraces it and uses it as a way to bring apps to the home's biggest screen. If rumors of a full-on Apple Television are also grounded in truth, the TV is a good test bed. We'd love to hear Cook talk about the TV in detail, including reporting sales figures and giving any indication it's due for an overhaul.
Other Apple products are also due a refresh, including the main MacBook Pro laptop line and the top-end Mac Pro desktop PC, and while Apple is typically cagey about revealing upgrade plans—we'd love Cook to say something like "we have a number of exciting new products to bring you before the holidays" or some such, which we could then read as meaning these machines. We'd also really like to hear about Apple's plans to bring more TV and movie content to iTunes both in the U.S. and internationally. Recent expansion of iBooks into overseas markets has, curiously, gone unmentioned by Apple itself...so perhaps Cook may allude to the growth of content supply during the earnings call. Everyone would like to hear detailed dates and figures, but that's just not going to happen.
Will Cook allude to "great new products in early 2012" and thus shine a glimmer on the future of the iPad? Will he mention Siri, which has captivated the public from the moment it was revealed? Will Cook given any official indication of how many Apple users have signed up to its flagship iCloud service in the few short days it's been available? We'll find out later.
[Image: Flickr user John-Morgan]