By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
July 21, 2010

The bloggers beat the pros once again this quarter, but not quite as handily as before

The professional analysts who track Apple (AAPL) for banks and brokerage houses may have been surprised by the $15.7 billion in revenue the company reported Tuesday — an all-time record for Apple in what is traditionally one of its weakest quarters.

But the blogger-analysts we polled in advance of the earnings report were not. In fact, their consensus estimates for both revenue ($15.74 billion) and earnings ($3.66 per share) were remarkably close to the actual results ($15.7 billion and $3.51, respectively).

Yes, once again the amateurs have beaten the professionals at their own game, although it must be said that the pros did considerably better in our Apple Earnings Smackdown this quarter than they ever have before.

A handful of pros performed quite well, and in four categories — gross margin and iPhone, iPod and iPad unit sales — the Street’s consensus was actually better than the bloggers’.

But in the categories that matter most — the top and bottom line numbers — the bloggers outperformed the pros by roughly two to one.

We’ve ranked the analysts by the combined accuracy of their revenue and EPS estimates in the table above (click to enlarge). The bloggers are wearing the green shirts, the pros are in red. [For a more sophisticated ranking, using more criteria, see Oh Oh, It’s Magic at Deagol’s AAPL Model.]

Below the fold: some shout-outs and a color-coded chart of all the categories we tracked. (Green is good, red is bad.)

For readers who have been following our quarterly competition, there are some familiar names among the bloggers in the top 10: Daniel Tello, Alexis Cabot, Andy Zaky and Turley Muller are regulars; Dennis Hildebrand, Horace Dediu and Jeff Fosberg are newcomers.

And kudos to the three professionals who made it to the top 10: Oppenheimer’s Yair Reiner, Merrill Lynch’s Scott Craig and Serne Agee’s Vijay Rakesh. We’ve been asking for the pros to step up their game, and this quarter they seem to have done it.

At least some of them did. We’re not sure what to say about names at the bottom of the list, which include some of the most famous Apple analysts on the Street.

In defense of Barclays’s Ben Reitzes — who came in last — his estimates were filed on June 22, before the launch of the iPhone 4 or Steve Jobs’ announcement of the sale of the 3 millionth iPad. Reitzes may have issued a more up-to-date (and more accurate) report, but he didn’t send it to me.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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