Apple Computer Inc.'s (AAPL) quarterly net income more than tripled, fueled by surging sales of its iPod (search) digital music players as shipments of its signature Macintosh computers rose 14 percent, it said on Wednesday.

Shares of Apple, which also reported a strong performance by its 80 retail stores, rose almost 7 percent in after-hours trade on the news.

Apple gave a forecast for its current quarter that was largely in line with consensus Wall Street estimates, a relatively strong outlook given that many analysts had not yet factored in the delay of the next-generation iMac personal computer (search), disclosed earlier this month.

"Obviously, this quarter was solid," said Shannon Cross, an analyst at Cross Research. "Ipod sales were a bit above what I was expecting."

For its third quarter ended June 26, Cupertino, California-based Apple said it had net income of $61 million, or 16 cents per share, up from $19 million, or 5 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Revenue rose 30 percent to $2.01 billion from $1.55 billion.

Demand Looks Good

"In the markets we're participating in, demand looks good for us," Peter Oppenheimer (search), Apple's chief financial officer, said in an interview.

Excluding restructuring charges, Apple said it had a profit of $67 million, or 17 cents per share.

On that basis, analysts polled by Reuters Estimates had forecast Apple to earn, on average, 15 cents per share, within a range of 13 cents to 16 cents. Revenue had been forecast at $1.94 billion.

On a conference call with analysts, Oppenheimer confirmed that the next-generation iMac, which will use the G5 processor, will be available in September. He also said that the launch of what has been dubbed the H-Pod by Hewlett-Packard Co., which has agreed to resell Apple's market-leading iPod under its own name, was on track for later this summer.

He also said that International Business Machines Corp., which makes the G5, has had manufacturing problems with the G5 processor, which constrained revenue and profits associated with Apple's Power Mac computers in the third quarter.

"Based on what they have told us, we expect the supply problems to be behind us by the beginning" of Apple's quarter beginning in October, Oppenheimer said.

"The big issue which is plaguing Apple right now is IBM," Cross said. "Apple said they're comfortable that IBM will be able to meet their needs but there's obviously the chance that IBM won't."

Apple said it expected to post fourth-quarter revenues of $2.1 billion and earnings per share of 16 cents to 17 cents, including one cent per share in restructuring charges.

Analysts now expect Apple to earn, on average, 17 cents per share on revenue of $2.04 billion for the fourth quarter.

Apple sold 860,000 iPods in the quarter, accounting for $249 million in revenue, up from 304,000 iPods sold in the year-ago quarter. The company sold 876,000 Macintosh computers in the period, accounting for $1.26 billion, an increase from 771,000 a year ago.

The company said recently it would begin international shipments later this month of its new iPod mini, following a delay due to stronger-than-expected U.S. demand and tight supplies of the hard drive, which is at the core of the digital music player.

Shares of Apple rose to $31.64 on INET in after-hours trade. In regular trade, Apple stock rose 36 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $29.58 on the Nasdaq. The shares have risen 38 percent so far this year compared with a 19 percent increase in the American Stock Exchange Computer Hardware Index .HWI.