All Ears Are On Fred (10/17/00)

Happy Rebound Eve! Or is it the day before Black Wednesday? Everything hinges on what money dude Fred Anderson says when he hosts that conference call with the analysts tomorrow after the market closes. Steve Jobs may ultimately be the Great and Powerful Wizard as far as the magical land of Apple is concerned, but when Fred Anderson talks, people listen-- and buy and sell accordingly. The numbers that Fred is currently carrying around in a locked briefcase handcuffed to his right wrist may well affect Apple's short-term financial health far more than any Stevenote, past or future.

Let's recap this most recent bout of high-finance melodrama, shall we? First, the analysts expected Apple to make roughly $165 million in its fourth quarter. Then Apple, evidently bored with its consistently wonderful stock performance for the past couple of years, decided to comply with federal regulations and post an earnings warning. In that dangerous missive, the company broke the dire news that due to various and sundry apocalyptic factors (such as slacker Mac geeks spending too much time playing The Sims and not enough time ordering Cubes for every room in the house), Apple in fact expected only to make about $110 million or so. The analysts immediately slashed their estimates to fall in line with Apple's fun little surprise, AAPL shed half its value overnight, and suddenly Apple was back to being "beleaguered" on the morning news. For a seething take on this ludicrous situation, we recommend Niko's rant over at MacAddict, partly because he puts things into perspective, but mostly because he's a cool guy and he included a gratuitous plug for our own Beat The Analysts contest (which closes at 10 PM EDT tonight, by the way).

Since then, Apple's stock has actually continued to fall, and right now it's hovering around $22, down from $55 before the earnings warning and $75 in March. We get the distinct feeling that AAPL has been treading water in the $20-$25 range, just waiting to see what happens when the real numbers come out-- and that turning point is now just one day away. If Apple posts a profit exceeding its earnings warning prediction, perhaps its stock price will begin to rebound strongly in after-hours trading. If it misses even its own reduced expectations, the sky will splinter into billions of razor-sharp shards which will fall and wipe out half the world's population in a jagged, screaming orgy of death.

For what it's worth, if you're the type who likes to play with matches, pick fights with armed thugs, and base your financial knowledge on info from rumors sites, AppleInsider has now joined Mac OS Rumors in reporting that Apple will post a profit significantly higher than its overly-pessimistic prediction. For those of you who want to experience the action as it happens, just make sure you're QuickTime-enabled and tune in to Apple's live streaming feed tomorrow at 2 PM Pacific. While we strongly suspect that tomorrow's key phrase will be "not as bad as we thought," we still recommend that you remain indoors-- and wear a helmet just in case.

SceneLink (2616)
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The above scene was taken from the 10/17/00 episode:

October 17, 2000: Fred Anderson prepares for his big performance tomorrow, as Apple warms up the QuickTime Streaming Servers for the live webcast. Meanwhile, Dataquest once again claims that Dell has overtaken Apple in the education market; haven't we heard this before? And Sony introduces a couple of new laptops that may really give the PowerBook's aging design a run for its money...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 2617: The OTHER Brain Drain (10/17/00)   Houston, we have a problem. Everyone knows that Apple's recent earnings warning blamed the fourth-quarter shortfall in part on slowing sales in the education market. And longtime viewers are well aware that while Apple once ruled that market as the undisputed king, its share has been dwindling in dribs and drabs over the course of the last several years...

  • 2618: Nipping At Apple's Heels (10/17/00)   Anybody who denies that Apple turned the industry on its ear when it introduced the original iMac needs to stop snorting the Windex. Sure, plenty of pundits at the time scoffed at the idea that a translucent, brightly-colored computer would even draw the public's attention, let alone provoke the rest of the beige-box manufacturers to start incorporating style into the equation...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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