SAN FRANCISCO – Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs re-emerged from his latest medical leave Monday to show off the company's latest innovations and sustain the hope that he eventually will return to dream up more ways to reshape technology.
The highlight, as usual, came at the end of Jobs' presentation. He was on stage for less than 30 minutes during a nearly two-hour event that primarily featured his subordinates.
Ever the showman, Job announced that Apple had struck licensing agreements with all the major recording labels on a new music synching system.
It will allow people to put all the songs they have ever bought from the company's iTunes store on up to 10 devices. All future iTunes purchases also will be automatically sent to all the devices, too. None of the transfers will require devices to be plugged into a single computer. It will automatically happen over wireless connections.
"Keeping all those devices in sync is driving us crazy," Jobs said.
Jobs' keynote address at a conference for application developers marked his first on-stage appearance since he unveiled the latest version of Apple's tablet computer, the iPad, three months ago.
It comes five months after Jobs went on his third medical leave of absence in the past seven years to deal with an unspecified medical issue. He has previously survived pancreatic cancer and undergone a liver transplant.
Unlike a six-month leave in 2009, Jobs, 56, hasn't said when he is coming back to work. The uncertainty make his every appearance even more of a spectacle because people don't know if it will be the last time they will see one of the world's most influential CEOs and cultural taste-makers.
Looking as frail as he did in his last appearance in March, Jobs didn't discuss his health Monday. That wasn't unusual; he has consistently treated his health as a personal matter and insisted that Apple's board remains mum, too, much to the frustration of some shareholders who believe they deserve know more the condition of the leader.
Apple, though, tried to strike an optimistic note by playing the James Brown song, "I Feel Good," as a prelude to Jobs' appearance. When the song concluded, Jobs stepped on stage to a standing ovation and a "We love you" shout from one man in the audience. Jobs smiled and said the warm reception "helped."
After his presentation, Jobs talked briefly with Connor Ellison, a 13-year-old boy he met earlier this year at a group that supports liver transplants. When Ellison asked Jobs how he was feeling, the Apple CEO said "I feel good" and posed for a picture. Afterward, Ellison said he and Jobs share the same doctor. He also said Jobs had invited him to come down from his home in Folsom, Calif., to attend the event.
While he was on stage, Jobs seemed animated as he gestured frequently and pace about the stage. He appeared to walk up the steps of the stage slowly after sitting down in the audience a couple times while other Apple executives demonstrated features of the iCloud service.
"He delivered all the key points, but it doesn't look like he is getting any better," said veteran Silicon Valley technology analyst Rob Enderle.
Jobs didn't look much different from his March appearance for the iPad 2, said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies and a longtime Apple watcher. Bajarin downplayed Jobs' limited time on stage on Monday, saying he "almost always" relies on underlings to handle the bulk of demos at developers' conferences.