Apple expects holiday season will be a blowout

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Apple's earnings were mixed for its fourth fiscal quarter, but the company is looking ahead to a record-shattering holiday season.

Apple earned $8.2 billion in the quarter ended Sept. 29 on sales of $36 billion. That profit came up short of analysts' expectations, and Apple shares dropped around 1% in after-hours trading.

The company's forecast for next quarter, however, was a blockbuster. Apple said it expects sales of around $52 billion, up 12% from last year's holiday quarter.

That would be the highest quarterly sales ever reported by a tech company. (It's still slightly less revenue than Wall Street analysts were anticipating, but Apple has a history of issuing conservative guidance and then blowing past it.)

Apple's iPhone sales for the quarter were just shy of 27 million, up 58% compared to last year. The iPhone 5 debuted at the tail end of the quarter, and Apple has had trouble keeping up with demand for it. Earlier this month, Verizon blamed Apple's iPhone 5 supply constraints for the surprisingly low number of iPhone 5s that Verizon sold in their first week on the carrier's shelves.

Sales of other Apple devices were mixed. The iPad tablet came in at 14 million, lower than what most analysts polled by Fortune were expecting. Last quarter, Apple sold a record 17 million iPads after the third-generation device debuted in the U.S. in March.

In a surprise move this week, Apple rendered that seven-month-old iPad obsolete. During an event to unveil the new 7.9-inch iPad mini, Apple also announced a slightly updated fourth-generation traditional iPad with a faster processor and U.S. 4G/LTE coverage.

Sales of Mac computers remained steady, at 4.9 million units. The iPod continued to decline, dropping 19% over the year to 5.3 million sold.

Apple has long broken out sales figures for each iGadget. Taken over several years, they reflect the changing device landscape as the world becomes more mobile. Mac computers have generally remained flat and iPod music players are declining, but iPad sales have steadily risen. The iPhone, Apple's bestselling device, soars in quarters during which a new model is released.

Tim Cook's first full fiscal year as CEO was a busy one. The iPhone and iPad set sales records, the company won a massive patent lawsuit against chief rival Samsung, and Apple's holiday 2011 sales generated the second-most profitable quarter ever in U.S. corporate history.

Investors liked what they saw. In 2012 alone, Apple's stock blew through the $500, $600 and $700 per share benchmarks, making it at that point the most valuable company of all time. Shares are up more than 48% year-to-date, though they have dropped back down in recent weeks, finishing the day Thursday at $609.54.

It hasn't all been sunshine and roses for Apple. Cook was forced to apologize publicly last month for the company's subpar Maps app, which he admitted "fell short." The bungled Maps release spawned satiric blogs like The Amazing iOS 6 Maps and scores of hand-wringing articles about whether the late Steve Jobs would have let this happen.

Another disappointment came last quarter, when Apple missed Wall Street expectations after soft iPhone sales.

Company watchers have spent the week debating the $329 price point on the iPad mini, questioning why Apple left breathing room for the $199 7-inch tablets from Amazon, Google and Samsung. As Daring Fireball blogger John Gruber put it: "'Better but costs more' is a gamble. 'Better and costs the same or less' is a sure thing.