Wall Street jitters regarding Apple's third-quarter performance may prove baseless, according to analysts at Piper Jaffray.

While some analysts predict a disappointing quarter for the company, Piper Jaffray continues to see Apple as a company that is "outperforming" its peers.

In fact, they expect Apple's sales "to come in slightly above the Street consensus of $3.3 billion", they said, in client notes reported by Forbes. Strong iMac and Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" sales will also contribute to Apple's bottom line, they explained. And a predicted 5.5 million iPod sales are expected to help income per share reach 31 cents, according to the note.

iPod halo hits critical mass

The analysts also note that they expect over 35 million iPods will have shipped by the end of 2005, and anticipate this will drive growth in and visibility of other parts of the company's business.

As proof of this 'iPod halo' factor, they point to Apple's 1.07 million Mac shipments in the March quarter, and describe "indications" of continued strength in Mac hardware sales in the current quarter.

They also expect Apple to issue strong guidance for its fourth quarter results, predicting 33 cents earnings per share on $3.58 billion revenues.

As Macworld confirmed last week, Apple will reveal its third quarter financial results tomorrow, July 13. The discussion will be made available as an audio webcast in QuickTime format.

Speaking during the company’s second quarter results announcement, Apple chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer predicted a slight increase in revenues, but anticipated a dip in profits.

"Looking ahead to the third quarter of fiscal 2005, we expect revenue of about $3.25 billion and earnings per diluted share of about $.28," he explained.

Piper Jaffray's price target for Apple shares is set at $52.