Handicapping Apple’s quarterly revenue and earnings: Q4 2012

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NOTE: When Tim Cook announced Tuesday that iPad unit sales hit 100 million about two weeks ago, many analysts revised their numbers downward. Those changes are not reflected in the data that follow. For updated numbers, see Analysts cautious ahead of Apple's earnings.

FORTUNE -- Something interesting happened this quarter when we polled the small army of analysts -- 68 in all, professional and otherwise -- who follow Apple's (aapl) every move.

Although there was, as usual, a huge gap between the lowest and highest estimates, the convergence between the two groups that we observed in Q3 seems to have accelerated in Q4.

After getting clobbered quarter after quarter for nearly four years by a bunch of bloggers, day traders and other amateur analysts, the professionals seem to be giving their clients more realistic numbers.

And having badly misjudged three of the last four quarters, the more bullish independents have, for the most part, started to come back to earth.

On average, the pros are looking for Apple to report earnings per share of $8.82 on sales of $36.02 billion.

The independents are expecting earnings of $10.14 on sales of $38.8 billion.

That's a gap of $2.79 billion (7.7%) on revenue and $1.32 (15%) on EPS.

$2.79 billion seem like a pretty big discrepancy, but in previous quarters the gap been as big as $6.8 billion.

Below the fold: The individual estimates, with the pros in blue and the independents in green, sorted per reader request by the bottom line (i.e. earnings). Note the general segregation between the two color groups.

We'll find out who was closest to the mark when Apple reports its earnings about 30 minutes after the closing bell on Thursday, Oct. 25. And we'll be back the next morning to rank the analysts from best to worst in our quarterly Earnings Smackdown.

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