Earnings season is back, and the air is charged with electricity. What will the newly de-"Computer"-ized Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) produce for our perusal in tomorrow's earnings report, and will it taste sweet or sour?

After the news comes out, we'll have time aplenty to dissect it. But in these few hours before we begin obsessing over Apple's short-term progress, let's take a moment to review what investors think about it as a long-term investment. Our tool in this endeavor: Motley Fool CAPS, where we poll more than 26,000 investors for their views on well more than 4,000 companies, Apple among them. Here's what Fools have to say about the company.

Up or down?
More than six thousand investors have submitted opinions on the company, making it the most-rated stock in all of CAPS-land. Yet surprisingly, the verdict is just: "Blah. This one tastes kind of mealy."

Nearly nine CAPS investors out of 10 think Apple will outperform the market, a sentiment mirrored among the ranks of our very best investors, the CAPS All-Stars. Even so, under the CAPS rating system, Apple gets only three out of the five possible stars.

Of course, it's worth pointing out that none of the big computer makers score particularly highly on CAPS. Within its peer group, Apple looks like a relative winner:

Personal Computers group

CAPS rating



Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ)




Gateway (NYSE:GTW)




Wall Street vs. Main Street
Yet the investors who supposedly know the most about investing -- our Wall Street players -- adore Apple, giving it 24 buy ratings versus just two sells. The reason for their enthusiasm is no secret: Over the last 52 weeks, Apple's stock has outperformed the S&P by approximately 25 percentage points.

Brass tacks
And what are the thoughts behind these ratings?

Bull pitch
iPhone. iPod. iMac. Apple bulls basically repeat these three words over and over. I think the Fool's own TMFBreakerJava does a fine job of summing up the investment thesis here: "They are taking share away from the Wintel platform and the iPhone hasn't hit the market yet. iPod continues to do well."

Bear pitch
Bears' objections should be familiar to any growth investor: The P/E ratio is too high. Competition will erode margins. But the most fundamental objection to Apple is the one rooted in history. As CAPS player woohooo writes: "I think apple will make the same mistakes as before. They will gain market share based on good design, but having to use only itunes with only ipods, and only macs with only mac os's will eventually limit the market and someone else will improve their design to be as attractive at a lower price."

Who said that?
To learn the identities of the wise Fools who penned these thoughts, and explore the plethora of additional financial data we've put together on the company, just click here.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked 181 out of nearly 28,000 raters.