The most unexpected thing about Apple's earnings performance Tuesday wasn't that it set an "all-time record"—it's said that in at least a half-dozen press releases before—but that practically nobody saw it coming. Since becoming chief executive officer in 2011, Tim Cook has escalated the company's cooperation with Wall Street analysts and carefully set expectations, generally to avoid these kinds of surprises (good or bad).
Last quarter's results were the most out of line with analyst estimates since April 2012. Apple's earnings per share, at $3.06, beat estimates by 18 percent. Take a look at the chart below for some perspective on how big of a shock that was for people who've been watching the company's financials over the last few years.