Apple saw quarterly profits nearly double from $3.38bn in the same period last year [GALLO/GETTY]

Computer and consumer electronics giant Apple has reported a record quarterly net profit of $6 billion, with revenue soaring to an unprecedent $26.74 billion during the year-end holiday shopping season

The California-based company said on Tuesday that it had sold 7.33 million iPad tablet computers and 16.24 million iPhones in the final three months of 2010.

The earnings report came a day after Steve Jobs, Apple's iconic chief executive, announced that he was taking medical leave for an indefinite period and would be handing over day-to-day operations to Timothy Cook, the companies chief operating officer.

Jobs said that he would remain involved in all major strategic decisions.

In a statement accompanying the earnings report, Jobs said Apple had had a "phenomenol holiday quarter, with record Mac, iPhone and iPad sales".

"We are firing on all cylinders and we've got some exciting things in the pipeline for this year including iPhone 4 on Verizon which customers can't wait to get their hands on," he said.

Profits nearly double

The company also sold 4.13 million Macintosh computers in the quarter, though the number of iPod personal music devices sold slipped by seven per cent to 19.45 million.

The net profit for the quarter, however, nearly doubled from the $3.38 billion posted in the same period in 2009.

"We couldn't be happier with the performance of our business, generating $9.8 billion in cash flow from operations during the December quarter," Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's chief financial officer, said.

He forecast that Apple revenue in the current quarter would be about $22 billion and that earnings for this quarter would be about $4.90 per share.

Apple has sold approximately 14.79 million iPads since the tablet computers hit the market in April, according to a tally of figures made public in earnings releases.

"We are already up to 80 per cent of the largest companies deploying or piloting the product," Cook said of the iPad during an earnings call with analysts.

Stock recoups losses 

Following the news, Apple's stock rose by about two per cent, recouping most of the ground it lost after Jobs announced his stepping back from the company's day-to-day operations.

Jobs did not mention in his announcement how long his leave of absence would be, nor did he give any details of his illness, asking only that people respect his and his family's privacy.

This is Jobs' third medical leave since 2004, when he underwent an operation for pancreatic cancer. In 2009, he received a liver transplant.

Analysts say Jobs is leaving the company in the hands of a competent team of managers.

"At the end of the day, there is more to Apple than Steve," Michael Gartenberg, an analyst and partner at Altimeter Group, said.

"These are all people who have been trained by Steve, worked closely with Steve and are the embodiment of Apple's core culture."

Source: Agencies