NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple ( AAPL - Get Report) is looking sharp going into a tech earnings season that, until Tuesday afternoon, had been a dismal parade of dullards. If Apple delivers on plan, it will be less like the streak of earnings disappointments from Google's ( GOOG - Get Report) profit-robbing spending splurge and Texas Instruments' ( TXN) big miss Monday that somehow came in below the target it lowered last month.
Blowout numbers from Apple could put it in the class of upside surprisers like IBM ( IBM) and Intel ( INTC), which both flew past analysts' targets with earnings reports Tuesday. But Apple's guidance is a whole other game, and there's reason to think the outlook in Cupertino, Calif. may not be a winner. Apple's quarterly numbers are usually strong, while its forecasts are famously conservative. But this time around, the view ahead may be a little more downbeat than the bulls are prepared for. One of the bigger Apple worriers on Wall Street is Rodman Renshaw's Ashok Kumar, though he predicts Apple will easily blow past expectations. The street consensus target calls for earnings of $5.35 on $23.3 billion in sales for the March quarter. But the outlook isn't necessarily going to be all that sunny, said Kumar. In a research note Tuesday titled "Margin Headwinds," Kumar pointed to three upcoming trends that threaten to gum up Apple's profit machinery in the June quarter. First, iPhone sales. Apple usually sees a slowdown in iPhone demand ahead of the introduction of the next iPhone. This year, that June quarter lull could be worse as the iPhone 5 gets delayed until late in the year. Kumar predicts that June quarter Apple iPhone sales will decline 25% from March quarter levels. The demand could also be hampered by a growing buzz around a much improved 4G LTE iPhone 6, due out next year. Second, said Kumar, it is becoming increasingly evident that the crisis in Japan will have some impact on Apple's supply chain. Even though many of Apple's suppliers no doubt have had uninterrupted production of many key product parts, there are other components, made or assembled in Japan, that may not be running at full supply. And third: Apple's likely to enjoy strong sales of the iPad 2, said Kumar. He estimates that Apple will sell 9 million iPad 2s, a 50% sequential jump that Kumar figures could amount to as much as 20% of the company's total revenue. That spells a little narrowing for Apple's margins. You can do the physics: Take a lower proportion of high-margin iPhone sales and mix it with a higher proportion of lower-margin iPad sales, and you get lower overall margins for Apple. If you believe the worriers, Apple may fall in with the disappointment camp. --Written by Scott Moritz in New York.>To contact this writer, click here: Scott Moritz, or email: email@example.com.To follow Scott on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/MoritzDispatch.>To send a tip, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.