Can Steve Jobs make the iPod sexy again?

If his entrance to the Apple faithful is any indication, the answer is "yes."  Jobs walked on stage at 10 a.m. to a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.

He looks thin, but it's debatable whether he looks thinner than his last appearance nearly a year ago. Jobs started off by not pushing the newest Apple products but instead talking about his health and thanking the Apple management team for running the company in his absence.

"I'm very happy to be here today with you all," he said. "As some of you may know, about five months ago I had a liver transplant. So I now have the liver of a mid twenties person who died in a car crash who was generous enough to donate their organs. And I wouldn't be here without their generosity."

Apple has been dropping hints for weeks that it plans to unveil a new line of MP3 players in San Francisco today. But as much as the company would like it to be all about the music, the spotlight will be on the tech industry's one rock-and-roll star: Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

It will be the first public outing for Jobs after he took a six-month medical leave earlier this year to undergo and recover from a liver transplant. Jobs, who has served as the company's spokesman and showman since he rejoined the company in 1997, hasn't appeared at an Apple event since last October.

Scott Budman Tweets Live From the Floor

NBC Bay Area's Scott Budman is in San Francisco and is tweeting live from the floor.

Apple executives like marketing chief Phil Schiller and COO Tim Cook have filled in. How'd that go? Let's be charitable: They're no Steve Jobs.

Gadget bloggers, who track Apple rumors like bloodhounds, have sniffed out some of the details. There will be a new iPod touch and new iPod Nanos, possibly with cameras, they've determined by reverse-engineering the third-party cases being made to hold the devices. (Yes, that is obsessive.)

Reading a roundup of the rumors leaves one less than impressed: Cameras in iPods and a new iTunes album format seem unlikely to stave off the slow death of the standalone music player, as smartphones (like Apple's own iPhone) take over the market.

Still, it was the iPod's introduction in October 2001 which rebooted Apple and transformed the computer maker into a consumer electronics giant. And if anyone can make us ignore reality for a moment, and fall in love with the notion of carrying all our music in our pockets again, it's Jobs. If he pulls it off, consider it this consummate showman's third act.

Scott Budman Qiks Live From the Event
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