The debut of the latest iPad and continued strong sales for the iPhone and Mac helped Apple nearly double its profit for the fiscal second quarter. The company reported a net profit of $11.6 billion on revenue of $39.2 billion for the quarter ended March 31, 2012. Those are respective increases of 94 percent and 59 percent from the 2011 second quarter. Apple’s profit translates to earnings of $12.30 per share, up from $6.40 a share last year; analysts were looking for earnings of $10.06 a share for the quarter.

All told, Apple tallied record March quarter sales for its iPad, iPhone, and Mac lineups. The company also saw record results for its retail stores during what chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer called “the most amazing March quarter that Apple has ever had.”

iPad launch

It was a big quarter for Apple’s iPad business as the company launched the third-generation tablet on March 16 and cut the entry level price to $399 for the iPad 2. While those moves came late in the quarter, Apple sold 11.8 million tablets during the quarter, up from 151 percent in the year-ago period.

In terms of revenue, Apple recorded $6.6 billion from iPad sales, up from $2.8 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Following its March 16 launch in the U.S. and nine other countries, the third-generation iPad is now available in 40 countries around the world. “The new iPad is off to a tremendous start,” Oppenheimer told analysts during a conference call with Wall Street analysts, adding that it was the fastest rollout ever for an iOS device.

Apple executives also noted on Tuesday that the iPad is extending the company’s reach into new markets. According to Oppenheimer, Apple sold two iPads for every Mac bought by one of its K-12 education customers in the U.S.—and that was during a record March quarter for Mac sales. Oppenheimer also touted the iPad’s presence in the enterprise, specifically citing the U.S. Air Force’s deployment of “thousands” of iPads as technical flight bags.

“The iPad continues to open new doors to customers with whom Apple had no previous relationship,” Oppenheimer said.

“The iPad has taken off not only among consumers in a very meaningful way, but also in education and in enterprise,” Apple CEO Tim Cook added during the conference call. “It’s sort of everywhere you look now.”

iPhone sales and iOS growth

iPhone numbers were also strong for Apple during the quarter. The company sold 35.1 million phones between January and March, an 88 percent jump from year-ago iPhone sales and a record for the March quarter. That outpaced the growth of the overall smartphone market, in which sales increased 42 percent year over year.

Revenue from the iPhone grew 85 percent from last year’s second quarter to $22.69 billion. 

In particular, Apple did brisk iPhone business in the Far East. Sales more than doubled in the Asia Pacific and Japan markets, according to Oppenheimer. In China, iPhone sales increased five times from last year, helped by the iPhone 4S’s release in that country in January and the addition of China Telecom as an iPhone carrier in March.

Apple ended the quarter with the iPhone 4S available in 100 countries with 230 carriers offering the smartphone.

Looking at both the iPhone and iPad numbers for the quarter, it’s easy to see how important the iOS platform has become to Apple’s business. The two products combined for $29.2 billion in revenue—that’s three-quarters of the revenue Apple brought in during the second quarter.

Oppenheimer says iOS device sales—which include the iPod touch—totaled 50 million during the March quarter. Apple’s cumulative iOS device sales have grow to 365 million units.

The App Store now carries more than 600,000 apps, with a third of those specifically built for Apple’s iPad.

Mac growth and Apple retail

Mac sales also set a March quarter record. The company sold 4 million Macs, an increase of 7 percent from the year-ago quarter. The entire PC industry grew 2 percent during the March quarter, making it six full years that Apple’s Mac business has outpaced the demand for PCs overall.

Laptops are still the driver for Apple’s Mac business. The 2.8 million portable Macs sold during the quarter represent 70 percent of Mac sales. Besides illustrating the importance of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air to Apple’s fortunes, that figure could also indicate that Apple’s desktop lineup is getting long in the tooth. The iMac last saw an overhaul nearly a year ago while the Mac mini has remained unchanged since July 2011. The Mac Pro is approaching the second anniversary of its last update.

The Asia Pacific market saw the biggest jump in Mac unit sales, with a 29 percent rise from last year. Other global markets saw single-digit growth in Mac sales.

Apple’s Mac sales may be outpacing the industry growth rate, thanks in some part to the company’s brick-and-mortar retail efforts. Apple says it sold 826,000 Macs at its retail outlets in the second quarter—about 20 percent of all the Macs it sold during the three-month period. About half the Macs sold at Apple Stores were to customers new to the platform.

Speaking of Apple retail, Apple ended the quarter with 363 stores, after opening two new ones in Amsterdam and Houston. Retail revenue of $4.4 billion for the quarter was up 38 percent from last year. It was the retail segment’s second-largest quarter of sales, behind only first quarter of 2012, which includes the holiday shopping season.

iPods fall, iTunes rises

iPod sales continued their decline. Apple sold 7.7 million music players, a drop of 15 percent from the second quarter of 2011. iPod sales actually came in ahead of Apple’s expectations for the quarter, according to Oppenheimer, with Apple choosing to focus on the fact that the higher-priced iPod touch represents more than half of the iPods sold during the quarter. Even with its declining sales, the iPod remains the market leader among MP3 players, according to Apple’s figures. 

The company was much more eager to talk about the growth of its iTunes Store, which also saw record revenue of $1.9 billion during the quarter. That’s an increase of 35 percent from last year’s tally, with music, video, and app sales driving the growth.

Other notes

Apple executives revealed a few other interesting details about the quarter during their briefing with analysts. The company ended the quarter with $110 billion in cash—a situation that figures to change in July when Apple starts paying out a$2.65 per share dividend to shareholders. Oppenheimer said the company would provide more information about that dividend program in July.

iCloud now has 125 million subscribers, after Apple launched the cloud-based service and MobileMe replacement last October. That subscriber base is up from 85 million at the end of the first quarter. It was only in February that Cook was telling investors that iCloud had topped the 100 million subscriber mark.

Apple continues to do a staggering amount of business in China. Cook told analysts the company recorded $7.9 billion in sales from that country during the second quarter, three times the amount of revenue it took in during the year-ago period. The $12.4 billion in revenue Apple has seen in China during the first six months of its 2012 fiscal year nearly matches its revenue from that country for all of 2011. Cook credited pent-up demand for the iPhone 4S and strong iPad 2 demand for much of that growth, which is also creating a halo effect for Mac sales in China.

The quarter ahead

Oppenheimer told analysts to expect revenue of $34 billion and earnings per share of $8.68 for the June quarter. That compares to revenue of $28.57 billion and earnings of $7.79 per share for the fiscal third quarter of 2011.

Apple’s forecasted numbers would be a sequential drop from the revenue and earnings the company just reported for its second quarter. Oppenheimer said the company is expecting a sequential decline in iPhone sales, as Apple had ramped up inventory to meet pent-up demand. The company was also able to satisfy demand for the new iPad, thanks to a significant supply of tablets. The lower entry price for the iPad 2 and a stronger U.S. dollar are also factors in Apple’s forecast.

Still, Oppenheimer and other Apple executives were bullish on the company’s fortunes going forward. “We just reported the most amazing March quarter that Apple’s ever had,” Oppenheimer said. “We feel very good about our business and our product pipeline.”