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Apple Profits Up 41 Percent in Second Quarter

Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL) said Wednesday its second-quarter profit rose 41 percent, beating Wall Street estimates, as sales of its iPod players continued to soar and Macintosh computer shipments increased by 4 percent.

Cupertino-based Apple said it earned $410 million, or 47 cents per share, in the three months that ended April 1. In the same period a year ago, the company earned $290 million, or 34 cents a share.

Revenue for the quarter was $4.36 billion, up 34 percent from $3.24 billion in the year-ago quarter. Sales was slightly above the company's previous guidance from January of $4.3 billion, but fell below the projections of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial, who, on average, expected revenue of $4.54 billion.

The analysts' consensus earnings forecast was 43 cents per share.

Still, analysts are expecting Apple to grow beyond its current 3 percent to 4 percent share of the computer market because of its switch this year to Intel Corp. (INTC) chips, the same used by its PC rivals.

With the iMac, the MacBook laptop and Mac Mini computer already shipping with Intel chips, Apple is about halfway through the transition, which the company says will be completed by year's end.

Some think another boost in Mac sales might come from Apple's historic release earlier this month of software that gave Macintosh users an easy way to install Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows operating system and switch between the two platforms on a Mac.

A "majority" of the 1.1 million Macintosh computers shipped in the second quarter were Intel-based ones, company officials said during a conference call with analysts. The quarter marked the company's first to include Intel-based Mac sales.

But Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's chief financial officer, warned that demand for Mac computers could stall in the current quarter as it did in the second quarter.

Oppenheimer said some customers are delaying purchases until additional Intel-based Mac models hit the market, such as the iBook, which is a popular product among students, and the PowerMac, which is popular among professional customers.

Some users, Oppenheimer said, are also waiting for some key applications, such as Adobe Systems Inc.'s (ADBE) Photoshop, to come out with Intel-based Mac versions.

Meanwhile, iPods are still dominating the portable media player market. More than 8.5 million units were shipped during the second quarter, up 61 percent from the year-ago period, the company said.

Cumulatively, Apple has now sold more than 50 million iPods since its original debut in 2001.

IPod sales totaled $1.7 billion — more than the $1.57 billion in Mac sales — in the quarter, accounting for 39 percent of the company's total revenue.

"We're thrilled about the quarter," Oppenheimer said in a phone interview. "It's the second best revenue quarter we've ever had, topped only by last quarter."

Analyst Shaw Wu of American Technology Research noted some investors were also likely pleased that Apple's gross margin, or the percentage of sales left after manufacturing costs, was 29.8 percent for the quarter, equal to the year-ago period.

Given the price slashes of certain iPod models and the new transition to Intel-based Macs, Wu — as well as Apple itself — had earlier predicted that gross margins would fall.

Oppenheimer said a driver behind the gross-margin surprise was cost-savings Apple achieved in flash memory — a key component for iPod players like the Nano.

"That really shows you the strength of Apple," Wu said. "Only a leader could cut a deal that favorable on such a large scale."

For the third fiscal quarter, Apple forecast that revenue will land between $4.2 billion and $4.4 billion, and earnings per share, including an estimated 4 cents per share of stock option expenses, will be about 39 cents to 43 cents. Analysts were targeting revenues of $4.73 billion and earnings of 47 cents per share.

Also Wednesday, Apple disclosed plans to build a second work campus on 50 acres near its Cupertino headquarters.

Apple shares fell 57 cents to $65.65 on the Nasdaq Stock Market but gained $2.91, or 4.4 percent, in after-market trading after it released its quarterly results.