Meanwhile, the iPhone rumor mill has kicked in to overdrive, with purported leaks of the phone's housing, its front glass (reputedly made from sapphire), and more. Expect the big questions this year to revolve around the possibility that Apple will release multiple bigger-screen iPhones of bigger sizes. Analysts will try to lure Tim Cook into saying something about, say, the "opportunity" in larger screen sizes. Expect Cook to remain steadfast in his resolution to say nothing of import.
If there's one area that's going to face particular scrutiny this quarter, it's likely to be Apple's iPad sales. The company sold 16.35 million iPads in the second quarter of 2014, which itself was a dip from the 19.48 million sold in the second quarter of 2013. There was a lot of speculation around that decline, though Cook attributed it to inventory management and supply-demand balance.
iPad sales have varied pretty widely in the third quarter of the last few years, so it's hard to say precisely how well the tablet will do this time around. But if Tim Cook's explanations for the iPad hold water, then we should expect iPad sales to have stabilized somewhat in the year-over-year numbers. So expect something close to the 14.6 million that the company sold in the year-ago quarter.
The Mac remains one of the steadiest performers in Apple's lineup, even if it never quite reaches the stratospheric heights of the iPhone and iPad. Like the rest of Apple's products, it tends to peak in the holiday quarter, with the second and third quarters often remaining largely flat. Apple does often provide incentives for back-to-school purchases, but since the third quarter technically ended at the end of June, and the company's education promotions didn't kick off until July 1st, the effects from that will be felt more in the fourth quarter.
Market share has ticked steadily upwards for the Mac, and there doesn't seem to be any reason for that not to continue in the third-quarter. In the year ago quarter, Apple moved 3.75 million Macs--expect something in the 4 million range, plus or minus a couple hundred thousand units.
Despite the lack of major shipping new products in the quarter, there are a few topics likely to get some play in the conference call. For one thing, this marks the first quarterly earnings since Apple acquired Beats Electronics and Beats Music in May. Not only will that have a financial impact on Apple, but analysts are sure to try and pump Tim Cook for information on how he sees the the addition affecting Apple.
Likewise, news last week that the company had struck a deal with IBM to increase the footprint of iOS devices in the enterprise might also provide a jumping-off point for analyst questions. Cook is fond of quoting statistics about the breadth of iOS device deployment in enterprise--this gives him an opportunity to talk about the depth too.
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