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On Wall Street, Apple Makes for Some Disbelievers

Apple officials did not say whether the outlook includes stock option expenses. New accounting rules require all companies to include stock options costs in their income statement at the end of their current fiscal year. Apple, like many other companies, previously took advantage of a loophole that allowed it to merely mention such costs in a footnote to its financial statements.

Regardless, Apple's outlook was slightly lower than Wall Street's estimates. Sell-siders had previously predicted that the company will earn 33 cents a share on $3.58 billion in sales in its fourth quarter.

Apple's prediction that sales would decline sequentially from its third quarter seemed to surprise many analysts on the call. The fiscal fourth quarter is typically a robust one for Apple, due to its strong presence in the education market, which sees an upsurge in sales during the back-to-school period.

But counteracting that potential uptick will be a likely decline in software sales, CFO Peter Oppenheimer said on the call. Apple released OS X Tiger last quarter, the latest version of its Mac operating system. Sales of the software totaled about $100 million in the quarter, Oppenheimer said on the call. While he declined to forecast Tiger sales in the current period, Oppenheimer noted that sales of the previous release of OS X declined about 60% sequentially the quarter after it was released.

Oppenheimer also noted that Apple's recent announcement about changing the chips underlying its computers could affect sales. Last month, Apple announced that it plans to move to Intel chips at the heart of its Macintosh computers, replacing the PowerPC processors on which they currently run. Some analysts have worried that the shift could slow sales.

While Apple hasn't seen any softness in demand to date, the company is still trying to gauge the impact of the announcement, company officials said on the call.

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