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THE DAY AHEAD: Apple gives naysayers some ammo

Apple Computer Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) finally gave its ever-present naysayers something to be bearish about, but it would be foolish to overreact.

Yes, Apple will miss its fourth quarter estimates next month with earnings of $75 million to $85 million, or roughly 45 cents a share to 50 cents a share, because it can't meet demand for its new G4 computers due to a chip shortage. The results will be well below Wall Street estimates of $120 million, or 76 cents a share. And shares plunged in aftermarket trading and could fall even more as analysts adjust their numbers.



Apple: Cut 'em some slack?



Here come the naysayers. "Apple sucks," scream fleet-footed traders on the message boards. "We told you so," certain analysts will say even though they've been under a rock while Apple shares have cruised from $30 to touch $80 (chart).

But step back and take a deep breath and look at the reasons behind Apple's shortfall.

Apple didn't have enough chips from Motorola (NYSE: MOT). New technology, new product, new delays. We're usually not the type to cut companies any slack, but Apple has earned it with its turnaround and won some institutional respect.

The biggest problem for Apple was raising expectations too high and not forecasting supply from Motorola with strong demand. CEO Steve Jobs wasn't exactly the quiet type when he unveiled the G4. Apple gambled it could make the quarter and lost.

"Apple has received orders for over 150,000 Power Mac G4s since the product was announced three weeks ago, and we regret that we will not be able to ship them all this quarter,'' said Jobs. "This is a temporary issue, and we hope to catch up early in the coming quarter."

Translation: Look for a blowout December quarter. The December quarter was predicted to be strong following Apple's strong third quarter results and now carries a lot of backlog from this quarter.

But that's the bright side. The pessimists will point for Apple's history of failing to deliver the goods. Nevermind that history is not but recent. Apple has delivered the goods on the iMac, iBook and its notebook computer line.

It'll be a half-empty kind of day for Apple, but optimists might find a bargain. Shares were getting to be a bit pricey anyway.

There's plenty to be optimistic about when it comes to Apple, but if the company's December quarter is hampered by component constraints there will be much more reason to worry.

Is Corel the real deal?

Corel (Nasdaq: CORL) is getting downright scary. The software maker, which was basically a punchline this time last year, topped estimates for the second straight quarter.

This time Corel, which has benefited by the Linux buzz, reported third quarter earnings of 17 cents a share, a nickel better than estimates.

``I believe that with the turn-around now behind us, Corel is in a solid position for growth, and our outlook for Q4 remains positive," said Michael O'Reilly, chief financial officer.

Could it be true? Sustainable growth and Corel can be used in the same sentence.

The catch here is that revenue was flat at $71 million and institutions aren't trusting of Corel.

But a few more quarters like this one and you never know.