CEO makes first public appearance since surgery

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs returned to his showman role Wednesday, taking the stage at a product launch event for the first time since his nearly six-month-long medical leave.

Jobs, who had a liver transplant this spring, got a standing ovation. Looking thin and speaking quietly and with a scratchy voice, the 54-year-old CEO told the audience he had received the liver of a young adult who died in a car accident.

He urged everyone to become organ donors.

“I wouldn’t be here without such generosity,” Jobs said.

Jobs had not appeared at such an event since last October. He bowed out of his usual keynote at the year’s largest Mac trade show in January and went on leave shortly thereafter.

At an event for journalists, bloggers and software partners in San Francisco’s convention center, Jobs announced updates to Apple’s iTunes and iPhone software before ceding the stage to Jeff Robbin, who demonstrated the new iTunes 9 features.

The CEO returned later to unveil a new iPod Nano with a built-in video camera, sound recording and speaker.

Apple also announced price cuts to existing iPod Touch models – $199 for an 8 gigabyte model, or $30 less. Apple kept prices constant for its other larger models, but will double the storage space; it will now sell a 32 GB version for $299 and a 64 GB model for $399.

Jobs disclosed in August 2004 that he had been diagnosed with – and cured of – a rare form of pancreatic cancer called an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor. Last year, he appeared increasingly thin, sparking speculation that his cancer had returned, though Apple attributed his weight loss then to a common bug.

On Jan. 5, 2009, Jobs said he had a treatable hormone imbalance and that he would continue to run the company. He went on leave the following week, saying his medical problems were “more complex” than he had thought. Apple’s chief operating officer, Tim Cook, took over daily duties. Jobs returned to Apple headquarters part-time at the end of June.

The new Nano unveiled Wednesday also has a built-in microphone, a pedometer, a 2.2-inch display and an FM radio tuner. It comes in rainbow colors and costs $149 for an 8 GB version or $179 for a 16 GB model.

Other changes to the iPod line include a beefier iPod classic, which now has a 160 GB hard drive for the existing $249 price. Apple also added brightly colored iPod shuffles and a smaller, less expensive version of the shuffle – $59 for a 2 GB model.

Meanwhile, the new version of iTunes cleans up the design, gives people more control over what content gets synched – or loaded on – to iPods and iPhones and introduces a way to organize applications purchased for the iPhone and iPod Touch from the iTunes store.

It also lets five computers on the same home network share – by streaming or copying – music, video and other content.

Jobs also said iTunes would now sell albums with photography, cover art, liner notes and other media reminiscent of the days of vinyl. The feature, called iTunes LP, will also come with interviews and other video. Recording companies have been looking for ways to boost album sales as iTunes and other online music stores make it easier to buy songs individually.

Shares in Apple reached a 52-week high of $174.47 in afternoon trading, then fell to $172.79, 14 cents below Wednesday’s opening price.

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