updated 1/18/2011 8:13:12 PM ET 2011-01-19T01:13:12

Apple Inc. said Tuesday that its net income for the holiday quarter jumped 78 percent as shoppers snapped up more iPads than analysts predicted.

People also bought iPhones as fast as Apple could make them. The strong results were enough to make investors forget, for the moment, the news that CEO Steve Jobs is taking another medical leave of absence.

Shares climbed in after-hours trading. Earlier, the stock slipped more than 2 percent in regular trading as Wall Street grappled with Jobs' hiatus. Jobs had surgery in 2004 that he said cured him of a rare form of pancreatic cancer. In 2009 he had a liver transplant during a half-year medical leave; this time, Apple has not said how long it expects Jobs to be absent.

Net income for Apple's fiscal first quarter rose to $6 billion, or $6.43 per share, up from $3.4 billion, or $3.67 per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet forecast $5.41 per share for the quarter, which ended Dec. 25.

Revenue climbed 71 percent to $26.7 billion, more than the $24.3 billion analysts expected. It was $15.7 billion in the same quarter a year earlier.

Apple's newest product, the iPad tablet computer, went on sale in April and was one of the hottest gifts over the holidays. Apple sold 7.3 million of the touch-screen, keyboard-less gadgets, which people use to surf the Web, check e-mail, watch movies, play games and, increasingly, get real work done. That's about a million more than analysts were expecting. Apple indicated it didn't have a problem making enough iPads to meet demand, and the company plans to start selling the gadgets in 15 more countries during the current quarter.

PC industry analysts believe the iPad and the promise of competing tablets that run Microsoft Corp.'s Windows or Google Inc.'s Android software are prompting people to hold off buying new laptops.

During a conference call with analysts after the results were made public, Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, said he thinks it's true that the iPad is cannibalizing Mac sales to some extent — but the people working on the iPad aren't pulling any punches to prop up Mac sales.

"I also think there's a halo effect," Cook said. "We have introduced millions of people in Asia to Apple through the iPhone. And we're now introducing many more through the iPad. And I think some of those decide to buy Mac."

Mac sales support the halo theory. Apple sold 4.13 million, a 23 percent increase. That's much faster than overall worldwide PC shipments grew over the same period, which industry analysts at Gartner Inc. and IDC put at about 3 percent.

Cook, who will lead Apple's day-to-day operations during Jobs' medical leave, gave no credit to competitors in the tablet market to date.

"The ones that are using a Windows-based operating system are generally fairly big and heavy and expense. They have very weak battery life," Cook said. "From our point of view and what we've seen, customers, frankly, just are not interested in them."

Android tablets today run an older version of Google's software that was designed first for smart phones, which leads to what Cook calls a "scaled-up smartphone, which is a bizarre product." Tablets running the not-yet-released version of Android made for larger screens are not yet on the market.

Apple ended the quarter with almost no iPhones left in stores, having sold 16.2 million, or 86 percent more of the smart phones than a year ago. With the expansion in the U.S. from one carrier, AT&T Inc., to two with Verizon Wireless, Cook declined to even guess when he thought Apple will be able to make enough to consistently satisfy demand.

"We are working around-the-clock to build more," he said.

Apple's focus on China, which has included the opening of four stores there and launching a country-specific iTunes store, is paying off. The Cupertino, California-based company said revenue from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan totaled $2.6 billion, about 10 percent of its total revenue and four times the year-ago total. Cook said two years ago, revenue in China was less than $1 billion for the whole year.

Most of the revenue came from iPhone and iPad sales. Of Apple's 321 stores open worldwide during the quarter on average, China stores clocked the highest traffic and revenue per store.

Apple also sold 19.5 million iPods, a 7 percent drop from a year earlier. However, people spent more on average on the devices — revenue from iPods edged up 1 percent.

For the current quarter, Apple said it expects net income of $4.90 per share on revenue of $22 billion. According to FactSet data, analysts were currently expecting net income of $4.48 per share on $20.9 billion in revenue.

Shares jumped $4.45, or 1.3 percent, to $345.10 in extended trading after the release of results. In the regular session, shares fell $7.83 to close at $340.65.

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