Apple expects revenues of between $3.2 and $3.4 billion over the next two quarters, chief financial officer Fred Anderson revealed during yesterday's financial results conference.

In 2001, Apple expects to maintain gross margins at around 27 per cent, and has achieved its target for the current quarter of reducing inventory levels – stock on hand and unsold – to four weeks.

The company also announced that it has returned a profit of $40 million.

Sales of the Titanium G4 PowerBook rose 173 per cent on PowerBook figures for the last quarter. Apple's professional desktop sales rose by 45 per cent, but G4 Cube and iBook sales fell by 59 and 45 per cent respectively. The company also saw a three per cent drop in iMac sales. Anderson said: "28 per cent of iMac owners are first-time buyers, and 15 per cent migrate from Windows".

Apple sold 55,000 iBooks and 12,000 G4 Cubes during the last quarter, which ended March 31, 2000 – seven days after Mac OS X reached retail. The company shifted a staggering 134,000 Titanium PowerBook G4s. Apple's professional desktops became almost as prevalent as iMacs in the quarter, with 250,000 sales, compared to 300,000 iMac sales.

Customer satisfaction CFO Anderson agreed that Apple's G4 Power Macs had been "well received by our pro customers". He expects sales of these systems to increase now that supply isn't "so constrained." One third of Apple's overall sales take place through its online Apple Store.

Anderson warned that the Pioneer DVD-R drives used in 733MHz Power Macs remain scarce, but added that Apple expects order backlogs to be fulfilled "by the end of June".

International sales accounted for 48 per cent of the quarter's revenues, with the United States and Japan delivering the strongest performance. Apple's CFO did warn of signs of a "softening" in Europe's personal computer sales, but the European economy has remained more stable than the US in recent months.

Apple continues to invest heavily in research and development (R&D), despite reports – subsequently denied by Apple CEO Steve Jobs – that it had dismissed the R&D team responsible for developing the G4 Cube. It spent $101 million on R&D in the current quarter, and $203 million during the current financial year. In the first six months of its last financial year it spent $182 million.

Focusing on education, Anderson said that Apple expects to close the all-stock PowerSchool acquisition deal by the end of the month. Hinting at Apple's strategy to regain educational market-share, he said it's "taking a more solution orientated approach to education", and that the company is "going back to basics and committing more resources" to regain market share in the US education market.

Learning curve Apple's educational presence was hit last year by the process of bringing its education sales in-house. Many of its competitors, principally Dell, benefited as the move coincided with the market's summertime peak. Apple has now established a 600-strong in-house education sales team.

Media reaction to the news has been positive. Reuters says the company has "topped expectations" and the Associated Press praises Apple's "return to profitability" while online-investor resource, ON24, said: "Apple shines with Q2 results."

Silicon Valley News, meanwhile, quoted Gerard Klauer Mattison analyst David Bailey: "Overall I think it was a solid quarter in a very difficult environment. More important than the results was that Apple needed to show signs of sequential progress, and they did that."

In the UK, called the news a "pleasant surprise for the tech sector, a piece of good news after such troubled times for the consumer PC market". It also said: "Apple's announcement went a long way to restore investors' confidence in its ability to use innovative design to drive sales."