Winter may be months away, but when it comes to Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), the bears are hibernating.

They've good reason to stay in their caves. Late yesterday, the Mac maker, under assault from Consumer Reports and others over trouble with the iPhone 4's antenna, crushed Street estimates in reporting fiscal third-quarter results.

Revenue soared 61% to $15.7 billion. Diluted earnings surged 75% to $3.51 per share. On average, analysts were expecting just $3.11 a share in profit, Reuters reports.

Macs led this quarter's growth story. All told, Apple sold 3.47 million Mac desktops and laptops -- a new record and a 33% increase over last year's total. "More people are buying Macs than ever before," CEO Steve Jobs said in a press release.

Cash also continued to flow. Through the first nine months of 2010, Apple has generated $12.9 billion in cash from operations, up 83% from $7 billion at this point last year. The iEmpire now has more than $24 billion in cash and short-investments available. Mix in another $21.5 billion in long-term investments and you've got a company capable of outright buying many of the market's more interesting mid-caps. Partners Akamai ($7 billion in enterprise value) and Netflix ($6.3 billion in EV) come to mind, for example.

As impressive as those numbers are, two others from this report interest me most:

  1. At $1.25 billion, capital expenditures through the first nine months of fiscal 2010 are up 82% over the same period last year.
  2. Research and development expense rose 36% during Q3. While still below sales gains, R&D investment growth is increasing.

Here's why these two numbers interest me. Historically, Apple has been stingy with cash, choosing to keep billions in low-interest savings vehicles rather than investing aggressively in new equipment. If that's changing, it means the Mac maker could be getting serious about a worldwide throw-down with chief mobile rivals Nokia (NYSE: NOK), Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM), and HTC.

Second, in the same quote where Jobs lauded the Mac, he foreshadowed "amazing new products still to come." Normally, I don't pay attention to this sort of rhetoric. But the numbers suggest that Jobs and his team are investing more than they have historically.

To be fair, the added spending could be as much due to the hot-selling iPad and iPhone 4 as anything else. I don't buy that, though. Apple has had years to spend R&D and capex dollars on these products. Let the bears keep sleeping -- I'm taking Jobs at his word.

But that's my take. Now it's your turn to weigh in. Is Apple preparing for global domination? Let the debate begin in the comments box below.

Apple and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Nokia is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Akamai is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Akamai at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy has never seen anyone surf on turf, for what it's worth.