Another blow-out quarter for Apple: $20 billion in revenue

Apple sells 4.1 million iPads, 14.1 million iPhones, and 3.9 million Macs for another record-setting quarter. iPad sales are lower than analysts expected.

CEO Steve Jobs, shown here demonstrating the iPad earlier this year, made a surprise appearance on the earnings call today. James Martin/CNET

After selling more iPads, iPhones, and Macs than ever, Apple has posted its best quarterly earnings yet.

For its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings, revenue clocked in at $20.34 billion, and earnings at $4.31 billion, or $4.64 per share. That's an increase in revenue of 67 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Investors were expecting revenue between $17.87 billion and $19.86 billion, and earnings between $3.43 and $4.41 per share.

The breakdown of sales in each business area looks like this: 3.89 million Macs sold during the fourth quarter, 27 percent more than a year ago; 14.1 million iPhones, 91 percent better than a year ago; 9.05 million iPods, up 11 percent; and (the number everyone had been waiting on) 4.19 million iPads during their second quarter of availability.

iPad sales can only be compared to the one previous quarter of sales (around 3 million), but were lower than the 4.7 million unit sales many analysts were expecting. COO Tim Cook cited supply issues, saying inventory was up to a three-to-four week's supply, but not up to his ideal four-to-six week supply.

Investors reacted to that news negatively, sending Apple shares down more than $18 to $299.95 in after-hours trading. That was after Apple shares closed at their highest price ever, $318, this afternoon.

CEO Steve Jobs took the opportunity to compare his company's results to the current market leader in smartphones in North America: "iPhone sales of 14.1 million were up 91 percent year over year, handily beating the 12.1 million phones RIM sold in their most recent quarter," he said in a written statement. "We still have a few surprises left for the remainder of this calendar year."

iPhone sales almost doubled from the number sold last year: from 7 million units a year ago to the 14.1 million iPhones sold during the most recent quarter. That was due to sales doubling in Japan, Asia Pacific, and European sales markets, CFO Peter Oppenheimer said during a call with investors and analysts this afternoon. Revenue from iPhones only, without accessories, was $8.6 billion.

In addition to his statement, Jobs also made a surprise appearance on the earnings call and had some pointed words for Google , Android phone makers, and competitors in the tablet market, including calling Google's framing of the "closed" iOS versus "open" Android platform "disingenuous." He also indirectly dismissed rumors of a 7-inch iPad by trashing the screen size, resolution, and usability of a number of 7-inch tablets planned by Apple competitors.

He also addressed the competition between the iPhone and Android phones, laying out how he perceives the difference between the two.

"Android is our biggest competitor. They outshipped us as we were transitioning to iPhone 4. So we're waiting to find out what happened to this quarter," he said. "I imagine we'll be competing with them for quite some time. We believe in our approach very strongly, providing users products that just work. Their approach is very different."

For the first time ever, Jobs revealed sales numbers for Apple TV, something the company had merely held as a "hobby."

"In a short time, we've already sold more than 250,000 (Apple TVs) and we're thrilled with that," Jobs said.

Other tidbits gleaned from the call and Q&A session with analysts:

  • More than half of Apple's sales are now outside the U.S. Fifty-seven percent of Apple's revenue came from international sales. Of the 24 new Apple Stores opened during the quarter, 16 were outside the U.S.
  • When asked for an update on his and Apple's stance on (Adobe) Flash, which it only recently reinstated as an authorized tool for iOS app development , Jobs sarcastically replied, "Flash memory? We love Flash memory." In other words, there was no new stance on Flash video on the iPhone or iPad.
  • On why Apple doesn't do a stock buyback or investor dividend despite its hoard of more than $51 billion in the bank , Jobs said: "We strongly believe that one or more very strategic opportunities may come along where we're in a unique position to take advantage. We've demonstrated a very strong track record in use of our cash. We don't let it burn a hole in our pocket and we don't feel motivated to make a stupid acquisition.

For the first fiscal quarter of 2011, Apple provided typically conservative guidance of $23 billion in revenue and earnings per share of $4.80.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. PDT with details from the earnings conference call.

 

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