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Apple: Still Running This Town

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    How many sold this time? Apple's earnings report is Tuesday July 19 and expectations are high (again).

    Apple, to paraphrase Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Rihanna, is still running this town.

    As the Cupertino, consumer-tech giant prepares to once again open its books to the public, its stock price has been red-hot, with a market capitalization nearing $400 billion, its cash pile continues to grow, and its products are flying off store shelves -- economic slowdown be damned.

    But as with any successful company in the tech industry, investors are not historians, but are rather concerned about the future. They quickly move beyond "What have you done for me lately?" and straight into "What will you do for me next?" 

    And Apple has some questions to answer.

    First off, how is Steve Jobs? The CEO may not be on the conference call, because he's still on a medical leave of absence, but he's been known to show up to launches lately, which always stokes the faithful.

    Secondly, how are sales? Lately, easy to answer -- iPads and iPhones are moving like hotcakes. So what's next?  Is the planned release of the Lion OS and MacBook Air updates on schedule?  Will we see the iPhone 5 soon?  And, with all that cash, how about a dividend? Surely, Apple is mature enough to share the wealth with its patient (and admittedly very satisfied) shareholders.

    And -- but probably less important to shareholders -- what about these pesky patent lawsuits? Will any of them stick? 

    Bottom line: Apple, like Silicon Valley itself, is setting a pace way ahead of the rest of the economy.  The stock price has been hot for a while, and investors will probably demand staggeringly good numbers before lifting the price much higher. That said, Apple is capable of delivering home runs every three months. Check your financial apps to see how they did this time.

    Scott can be found on Twitter:  @scottbudman