Apple today announced its earnings for its fourth fiscal quarter of 2011. Apple’s revenue amounted to $28.27 B in Q4. With earnings of $7.05 per share.

Its gross margin was 40.3% and Apple’s net profit in Q4 was $6.62B.

Apple sold 17.1M iPhones, up 21% year over year, and 11.1M iPads this quarter, up 166% year over year. Apple sold 4.89M Macs during the quarter, bringing sales up 26% when compared to the same quarter a year ago.

Fortune estimates of Apple’s Q4 had placed overall revenue estimates from analysts at around $29B, with earnings of $7.20/share. The earnings missed estimates, causing stocks to drop on the news in after hours trading. How far it will fall remains to be seen, but it was down as much as 7%, the very moment the earnings went live.

“We are thrilled with the very strong finish of an outstanding fiscal 2011, growing annual revenue to $108 billion and growing earnings to $26 billion,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Customer response to iPhone 4S has been fantastic, we have strong momentum going into the holiday season, and we remain really enthusiastic about our product pipeline.”

“We are extremely pleased with our record September quarter revenue and earnings and with cash generation of $5.4 billion during the quarter,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “Looking ahead to the first fiscal quarter of 2012, which will span 14 weeks rather than 13, we expect revenue of about $37 billion and we expect diluted earnings per share of about $9.30.”

While Apple claims to be excited about the figures, the market reaction has been negative, as the company ‘missed’ its market-set earnings targets.

Dare to compare

In the Q3 earnings report, issued in March, Apple’s CFO Peter Oppenheimer said that they expected revenue of about $25B, with diluted earnings per share of about $5.50. In Q3 of 2011, Apple reported  an 82% quarterly growth with revenue of $28.57B and a net profit of $7.31B, representing a record for that quarter and a 125% growth in profits.  International sales accounted for 62% of Q2′s revenue.

Apple sold 20.34M iPhones in Q3, a 142% growth over the same quarter in 2010, and 9.25M iPads, a 183% increase Y/Y. iPod sales declined 20%, with sales amounting to 7.54M.

The stash

Apple now has a cash hoard, including cash, short term and long term investments, of some $81.6 billion. What it will do with that cash remains to be seen.

High expectations

The markedly negative market reaction to Apple earnings comes on the heals of the company consistenly beating what the market was expecting. In fact, Apple has not missed a quarter’s earnings like today since second quarter of 2002, the Wall Street Journal reports.

That investors became instantly skittish is therefore not a surprise, as they were shown something that they did not expect: disappointing revenue and EPS numbers. That means that for some, the ride is over, despite signals (such as a new iPhone) pointing to a strong holiday sales cycle.

In short this is likely a bump in the Apple-train’s future numbers. And it must be noted that compared to one year ago, the company performed at a simply spectacular level. With the 4S and the ever-popular iPad 2 heading into Christmas, and likely refreshed Macbook Pros, Apple should have the potential to put some impressive numbers on the board. At the same time, investors know all of that, so it could be that that information is factored into earnings targets. The company could miss again, while performing strongly.

That risk aside, Apple has never had more cash, and is earning (net) around $220 million a day in profits. Chew on that.

Apple will be streaming its earnings call live at 2pm, we will bring you important news and analysis from the call shortly thereafter.