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Apple iPad shows faint signs of life

Apple's troubled iPad business beat expectations and actually saw an increase in revenue.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple offered some reason to be cautiously optimistic about the iPad.

The company on Tuesday released its fiscal third-quarter results, and iPad sales once again fell.

But the 10 million units sold in the quarter was far above analysts' projected sales of 9.2 million units, according to Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi. Revenue showed a rare increase, rising 7 percent from a year ago to $4.88 billion.

The numbers offer a bit of respite despite Apple suffering its 10th quarterly decline in the tablet business. The business suffered from waning enthusiasm, and are stuck in between ever-growing phones and more powerful laptops that offer many of the same features.

But don't get too excited about a full turnaround. The numbers were helped by sales of the iPad Pro, which launched in September and wouldn't have shown up in the year-ago results.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said in April that he continued to be optimistic about the iPad business, and teased strong numbers for this period.

The 9 percent decrease is more moderate than in prior periods. In the second quarter, Apple saw its unit sales decline by 19 percent from the year-ago period. That followed a fall of 25 percent in the first quarter and 20 percent in the fourth quarter.

Beyond the iPad Pro, Apple hasn't done much to shake up its iPad business. The company has focused on tweaking or making modest improvements to its existing iPad Air and iPad Mini franchises.

-Shara Tibken contributed to this report.