5 essential notes for Apple's Q4

More steps to an Apple planet. As Apple prepares to announce its fourth financial quarter results later today investment houses are chattering on expectation of strong -- perhaps estimate-beating -- iPad sales, and we're watching iPhone 4 sales with great interest. Did 'antenna-gate' damage these? I'm also expecting anecdotal reports of booming Mac sales to be confirmed. Apple design counts.

Apple is number one

As I argued last week, if you include iPads within broader PC sales, Apple is now the leading US PC maker.

This argument's now been picked-up by Deutsche Bank analyst, Chris Whitmore, who says iPad, “is driving a rapid, unprecedented shift in the structure of the computing industry.” A shift which gives Apple a tasty 25 percent slice of the market.

Asymco also notes that adding iPads to PC sales puts Apple in position to become the world's leading PC company within a year or so.

Enterprise gets iPad

Anecdotal reports are emerging fast now. Take a look at Asymco's claims last week, exploring why enterprise IT is ripe for a move to tablets, which at this stage in market development means a move to the iPad.

[This story is from Computerworld's Apple Holic blog. Follow on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to make sure you don't miss a beat.]

Horace Dediu offers up his account of how IT pros decide which technologies to implement, and how the move to mobile devices such as the iPad is an opportunity for IT managers to build reputations.

"The iPad and the mobile devices it represents is going to influence a generation of IT spending," he writes.

MacBook upgrades

We'll skip predictions on Mac OS X, bar speculation that we may see some touch-focused changes in how the Finder works, a wellspring of expectiona anticipates new MacBook Air models will debut later this week at Apple's event on October 20.

The new MacBook Air will be slimmer and lighter than the current 2008 models. It may feature new LiquidMetal alloys in its construction, may host an 11.6-inch screen.

Reports claim the new Macs may use the same processors as existing models. If that's the case then I really can't see the point, unless Apple intends fielding these Macs at deeply aggressive prices to take on what's left of the netbook market, post-iPad.

More on the MacBook Air. A Lazard Capital analyst somewhat shadily warned clients that SanDisk and Samsung will provide SSDs for the new product, which will offer up to 128GB of storage.

He's predicting up to 900,000 MacBook Air sales in 2011, but adds that he sees the "beginning of a longer-term partnership" between Apple and SanDisk. Wonder what that means, given Samsung's move to take on the iPad with the (far more expensive) Samsung Galaxy Tab?

iPhone 4 shipments

Did 'Antenna-gate' really hurt iPhone sales? Why have I not met one single consumer user of an iPhone 4 who makes any claim at all of having been impacted by the widely-reported problem? What was the fire at the heart of all those reports?

We'll find an answer to this today, when Apple will tell us how many iPhone 4's it managed to sell in the just-gone quarter. These figures will ignite yet more debate within that terribly over-simplistic 'iPhone-versus-Android' analysis of the fractured smartphone market.

At present, analyst consensus anticipates 12 million iPhone and 4.75 iPad sales. RBC predicts 5 million iPad sales and 13.5 million iPhone sales. We'll see on the second estimate, but with iPad manufacturing reportedly hitting 3 million a month I can see an upside to the 5 million iPad sales for the quarter.

Mac sales

PC market sales have been impacted by the iPad, Gartner and IDC agreed last week. Interestingly, Apple's Mac sales don't appear to have been impacted by the iPad invasion -- with reports of healthy Back to School sales, some estimates anticipate 3.5 million to 4 million Mac will have been sold in the quarter.

There's been some talk anticipating a $20 billion quarter for Apple. With all this in mind, perhaps Apple's Steve Jobs was right to ignore Michael Dell in 1997, when Apple stock stood at $17 per share. Asked what he'd do if he was CEO of Apple, Dell's founder said, "What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders."

Who's laughing now?

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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