Has Apple(Nasdaq: AAPL) lost its polish? Should we gloss over the fact that the computer maker reported its first quarterly loss in two years, posting an operating profit before charges? Despite the company's downbeat holiday sales outlook, Apple still feels it will outdo competitors, nickel-and-diming back some needed market share.

No matter how you wax Apple, the reality lies somewhere between the good and the bad. Apple's $1.44 billion revenue showing in its fiscal fourth quarter was essentially flat with last year's results, and in-line sequentially with its June period report. However, gross margins took a hit this time.

Thankfully, the company still sports a shiny $4.3 billion cash-rich balance sheet. And about the holidays... earlier this month, Dell(Nasdaq: DELL) said it's poised to gain more market share, and Gateway(NYSE: GTW) slashed prices to win unit volume. But everyone can't grow market share, right? Either both companies are looking at life through rose-tinted monitor screens, or they're planning to raid Hewlett-Packard(NYSE: HPQ) as it continues to digest Compaq.

But Apple is about more than just beautiful computing machines. From its iPod MP3 player to its latest Mac operating system, the company isn't a vanilla commodity in a world of spec sheets. Apple also has outstanding inventory. Its retail stores are doing well, and you can't dismiss the fact that the company sees sequential improvement in the current quarter. But if you think pointing to higher holiday sequential sales is a lay-up, consider that the top line took a fiscal first-quarter dip last year.

The company's hardly rotted to the core. With the stock trading for almost half of what it fetched in April, it looks like there's some value to be found in the orchard.