Bloggers vs. Pros on Apple’s Q3: Yet another $2 billion gap

If you ask about sales in the quarter that just ended, you get three very different answers

Apple's (aapl) third fiscal quarter of 2011 ended Saturday at midnight. How did it go? That depends whom you ask.

In April, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer told analysts he expected Apple to earn $5.03 per share on sales of $23 billion. But given how Apple tends to low-ball its forward-looking guidance, nobody really believed him.

The consensus of nearly four dozen professional analysts, according to Thomson Financial Friday, is that Apple will report earnings of $5.63 on sales of $24.52 billion, up 60% and 52%, respectively, from the same quarter last year.

Over the weekend, we polled our regular panel of amateur analysts and got estimates from nine of them, including Jeff Fosberg of the Apple Finance Board, Bullish Cross' Andy Zaky and Asymco's Horace Dediu, who came in 1st, 2nd and 5th in last quarter's earnings smackdown.

The amateur's consensus for Q3: earnings of $6.64 on sales of $26.6 billion -- up nearly 90% and 70%, respectively, year over year.

This marks the third quarter in a row that the amateurs' revenue estimates were more than $2 billion higher than the professionals'. (See here and here.)

If you're wondering on whom to put your chips, the amateurs as a group have outperformed the pros every quarter for the past 10. In Q1, they underestimated Apple's earnings by 1% compared with the pros' 9% miss. In Q2 they overestimated by 3% while the pros underestimated by nearly 6%.

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