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Apple earnings preview: More questions than answers

Dan Moren | July 24, 2013
It's been three months since we've taken Apple's financial pulse, which can only mean that it's time for a check-up. The company is set to announce its latest quarterly earnings on Tuesday with a conference call to follow at 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET. Macworld will once again be providing live coverage of that analyst briefing and its attendant Sisyphean question-and-answer session.

What we do know is that the Apple TV continues to be a pretty successful hobby for Apple; Cook may even grace us with some figures about just how well the set-top box is selling currently, or let us know whether the company's most recent partnerships, including HBO Go and WatchESPN, are performing well.

Hold the phone
Lest anyone risk forgetting it, the iPhone is still the king of kings in Apple's product hierarchy. Expectations are high for a new model going into next quarter, and the Internet continues to predict a low-cost, plastic-backed iPhone model with an insistence that borders on the monomaniacal.

But Cook and Co.'s playbook is clear here, too. Despite analysts trying to divine whether Apple wants to capture the low-end of the market, expect rebuttals in the form of Apple's solid customer satisfaction numbers with the iPhone (a favorite figure of Tim Cook's) and the markets where the iPhone seems to be holding onto solid ground, such as here in the U.S..

And, in the spirit of driving the financial analysts really crazy, let's remember that Tim Cook is probably sitting on the other end of the speakerphone, checking his email in iOS 7 on his iPhone 5S.

Odds and ends
There are plenty of other topics for Tim Cook, chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer, and analysts to talk about on Tuesday. Like ... uh ... some heat wave we're having here, right? Right?

But just in recent days we've had rumors of iPads with larger displays floating around, which analysts might try to wiggle into their questioning, and of course, there might be some questions around the recent ebook price-fixing ruling that Tim Cook will no doubt deftly deflect. In business news, Apple recently acquired two mapping-related companies to presumably bolster its built-in iOS service (soon to come to OS X as well). Whether or not that's something analysts will be interested in remains to be seen.

The company's commitment to education might also come up, especially in light of its deal with the L.A. Unified School District to provide iPads to thousands of public-school students in the city. And, of course, the company's ongoing dividend plan--which it expanded in April--may come up as well, since analysts are ever concerned about what Apple plans to do with its chock-full bank accounts.

But, as for anything else, say it along with us, folks: "I'm not going to talk about future products today."


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