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Apple Preps Fans for 'Major New' Tablet

Updated from Monday, Jan. 25

CUPERTINO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL - Get Report) fueled the Tablet excitement by promising a "major new product" but shared no details.

The iPhone maker posted earnings of $3.67 a share, up from the $2.50 profit in the year-ago period and well above the $3.50 profit analysts had targeted.

Apple says it is on track for hitting $50 billion in annual sales. The comment came from executives on a conference call with analysts. For the fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 26 sales were $15.7 billion, up from $11.9 billion last year and better than the $14.9 billion analysts expected.

Apple sold 3.36 million Macs, up 33% from year-ago levels as the Apple computers enjoyed strong holiday sales. Analysts had expected Apple to sell about 3 million Macs. Apple sold 8.7 million iPhones, slightly less than the 9 million analysts had expected. Apple sold 20.7 million iPods, which was roughly in-line with analysts' estimates.

Gross margins were 40.9% -- much wider than the 36.6% in the September quarter. Apple says margins should be in the 39% range for the March quarter.

"The new products we are planning to release this year are very strong, starting this week with a major new product that we're really excited about," CEO Steve Jobs said in a press release Monday.

Looking ahead at the fiscal second quarter ending in March, Apple says profit will be in the range of $2.06 to $2.18 a share, with a midpoint of $2.13 that is well above the $1.77 per share profit analysts forecast for the quarter. On sales, Apple expects revenue to be around $11.2 billion, also above analysts estimates that call for revenue of $10.37 billion.

Apple shares were trading at $206.41 in premarket trading Tuesday. The stock closed at $203.08 in regular trading on Monday.

Beyond Apple's strong fiscal first quarter performance, there are questions over how well the iPhone will sell as the exclusivity deal with AT&T (T - Get Report) ends and Verizon (VZ - Get Report) will start selling a new version of the iPhone this summer.
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