Apple CEO Steve Jobs returns to center stage

September 9, 2009 7:46:22 PM PDT
Price cuts and new gadgets and features dominated an Apple event in San Francisco Wednesday, but it was its CEO Steve Jobs who got most of the attention and the biggest applause.

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Steve Jobs has not made a public appearance in 11 months. His health has been a major concern for employees, shareholders and Apple fans.

The crowd jumped to their feet and applauded for two minutes as Jobs walked on stage.

He remains thin and his voice is still a bit weak.

He had a liver transplant five months ago. The donor was a young man in his 20s who died in a car accident.

"I wouldn't be here without such generosity, so I hope all of us can be as generous and elect to become organ donors," Jobs said.

His appearance was well received.

"It's got to be a life-changing event," technology industry analyst Michael Gartenberg said. "He addressed the topic, addressed it early. I think it was important because, instead of people saying as they did last year, 'Look how ill Steve looks,' it was more of, 'Look how good Steve looks for a guy who just had an organ transplant.'"

Then it was down to business.

Apple had plenty of news to share about its music players, from the iPod Touch to the Shuffle.

But the biggest news was a new Nano, with a built-in video camera at no price increase. The 8GB model is staying at $149.

"It's the same price point as the Nano is on the market today, only it adds a video camera to it, it adds FM radio to it, adds a bunch of things, and it's still the same price," Gartner research analyst Van Baker said. "And it's only a $30 step up to double the memory so a lot of people will step up and buy the higher priced model."

Apple also redesigned its iTunes store and updated its iPhone operating system

But the iPod needed refreshing as sales fell 7 percent last spring in a year's time.

More changes may be in the works.

"You're going to see a shift in terms of what the iPod does over the next several years to more of mobile computing versus just a music player, and you're starting to see with the camera in the Nano an example of that," Piper Jaffray research analyst Gene Munster said.

Despite the recession, Apple has a giant slice of the music player market at 73 percent. So it is trying to invent new uses and features, including new mobile games.

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