Apple Computer has reported its best quarter and the best year in the company’s history. Revenues jumped 68% Net Income surged a massive 384%.

Announced after the close of the market Apple  reported a revenue jump of 68 percent for its fiscal fourth quarter ended September 24, to $3.68 billion, compared with revenues of $2.35 billion in the year-ago quarter. Net income surged 384 percent to $430 million, or 50 cents a share, compared to net income of $106 million, or 13 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.

Earnings per share included a 12 cents gain from several tax items related to net deferred tax assets, tax reserves, and a revision to the full year tax rate estimated in prior quarters.

We're thrilled to have concluded the best year in Apple's history,'' said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, in a statement.This is the direct result of our focus on innovation and the immense talent and creativity at Apple. We could not be more excited about the new products we’re working on for 2006.”

Apple said it shipped 1,236,000 Macintosh computers and 6,451,000 iPods during the quarter, a jump of 48 percent in Mac sales and 220 percent growth in iPods, compared with a year ago.

Apple said its gross profit margins were 28.1 percent of revenues, up from 27.0 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 40 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

According to Thomson First Call, the consensus on Wall Street was for earnings of 37 cents a share, with a range of estimates from 33 cents to 43 cents a share. Analysts also estimated revenues of about $3.7 billion, ranging from $3.5 billion to $3.9 billion.

Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said in a statement he expects first quarter revenue of about $4.7 billion, with earnings after charges and gains of about 46 cents a share, including an estimated three cents per share expense impact from non-cash share-based compensation, translating to earnings before charges of 49 cents a share.

In July, Apple projected a flat fiscal fourth quarter, based on one element of uncertainty amid its otherwise stunning financial performance, as the company transitions its Macintosh computers over to Intel processors, from IBM PowerPC chips.

At the time of its third quarter earnings report, Oppenheimer estimated fourth quarter revenues of $3.5 billion and earnings of 32 cents a share.

But analysts were hopeful that Apple would beat estimates, in part due to the successful debut in September of its newest iPod, the iPod nano. Richard Farmer, an analyst at Merrill Lynch, had projected that Apple would beat Wall Street estimates, and that the new iPod nano would help the September quarter, as well as the next coming quarter.

Tomorrow, Apple is hosting a press conference in San Jose to announce another new product. Many analysts are expecting the company to introduce a video iPod or new iPod nanos in two additional colors. Other speculation centers on pop music star Madonna, who appeared via a live video feed with CEO Steve Jobs last month at the iPod nano launch.

A Madonna fan Web site reported Monday that Apple will introduce a Madonna iPod, with her entire music collection, in pink. Apple officials have declined to comment on Wednesday’s press conference.

Apple’s shares rose $1.22 on Tuesday to close at $51.59 ahead of earnings.

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