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Missing the mark inevitably led to some second guessing, particularly now that Jobs is no longer around. Cook had been running Apple since Jobs went on medical leave in January, but he didn’t take the CEO job until Aug. 24 with about five weeks left in the company’s fiscal fourth quarter.

Apple could have avoided the problem that caused the quarterly earnings miss by releasing the iPhone 4 in the middle of the reporting period, Gillis said. That’s a strategy that Jobs had sometimes adopted when Apple was preparing to release a hotly anticipated device that threatened to cannibalize sale of an earlier product.

If the iPhone 4S had been in stores just during the final week of September, the sales would have been enough for Apple to meet analyst expectations. That’s based on Apple’s sales of 4 million units of the iPhone 4S since its Oct. 14 release.

“The lesson to be learned here is to be careful when you have a new product coming out,” Marshall said. “Even in a tough economy, people still want the latest and greatest device and they are willing to keep some money in their back pocket to buy it.”

Marshall, by the way, expects Apple to more than make up for its shortfall in the latest quarter: he foresees nearly 27 million iPhones being sold in the current quarter and expects the company’s stock price to hit $500 within the next year. Apple shares fell $23.62 Wednesday to close at $398.62.