Apple is due to release its third quarter earnings reports on Wednesday, and analysts are already expecting the worst.

Shares slipped $1.58 to $50.67 on Friday after an analyst cut earnings estimates based on predictions that the company's sales will not meet expectations.

The last time Apple’s shares slipped to around the $50 mark was in October 2005, closing at $49.94 on October 12.

The decline in share value followed UBS analyst Benjamin Reitzes’ decision to cut his fiscal fourth-quarter earnings estimates based on the belief that a new iPod will ship later than expected. He cut earnings estimates to 47 cents per share from 50 cents per share, revenue projection to $4.63 billion from $4.8 billion, and lowered his target price to $77 from $90.

When Apple announced its second quarter results in April, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer predicted: “Looking ahead to the third quarter of fiscal 2006, we expect revenue of about $4.2 to $4.4 billion. We expect GAAP earnings per diluted share of about $.39 to $.43, including an estimated $.04 per share expense impact from non-cash stock-based compensation, translating to non-GAAP EPS of about $.43 to $.47.”

It appears that the main concern of analysts at the moment is a predicted delay in getting new iPods to market in time for Christmas, rather than the transition to the Intel chip, however.