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Monday, May 23, 2005, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

Jobs humors "D" crowd, talks iTunes 4.9, future products

Exclusive — A witty Steve Jobs helped kick-off the third annual Wall Street Journal D Conference last night, focusing his comments largely on the digital music arena as it pertains to Apple's iPod and iTunes products.

Jobs partook in the 7:00 pm opening dinner, which consisted of soup and salad, followed by a main course of lobster and steak. Jobs, of course, is a vegetarian.

"In general, Steve was amazing," said an AppleInsider correspondent present at the dinner. "He was sharp and funny. As he was last year, he was very insightful into why Apple did things, and had great observations on the industry."

iTunes 4.9

During his chat, Jobs demonstrated iTunes 4.9, a forthcoming version of Apple's digital music jukebox software. Calling it the "Tivo for Radio for iPod, " he said the new version would incorporate Podcast support — allowing users to download and subscribe to pre-recorded audio content.

Jobs said the software is slated for released within the next 60 days and that all Podcast feeds and subscriptions will be free. Apple is currently adding functionality to display relevant album art during the Podcasts, he said, which will provide listeners with purchase links to the iTunes Music Store.

Apple will also release a tool that will allow any Podcast creator to easily upload their content to the company's music store.

Future Products

Throughout the dinner, Jobs was pressed quite hard on future products and strategies, but cracked only once. When asked whether Apple would eventually sell movies in the same fashion it does tunes, he responded, "I'll leave the answer to that question to our actions of the future."

Commenting on the highly anticipated iTunes-savvy mobile phone, Steve noted that wireless carriers retained enough power in the industry to practically dictate the specifications of each cell phone being manufactured.

Jobs spoke at length about iTunes and cell phones, giving AppleInsider correspondents the impression that what Apple has in store may not necessarily be an "iPod phone" but something totally different and unique.

Bill Gates

At one point Jobs asked members of the audience to raise their hand if they owned an iPod. The attention of the room was almost immediately turned to Bill Gates, who was also present. As the video cameras panned his way, Gates smirked and shied away — he owns a Rio.

Competition

Jobs was also pressed to comment on the significance of iPod competitors and their strides towards duplicating the iPod experience. He conceded that some of the rivals were "getting close" to knocking-off the iPod, but that Apple is working on several "great things" in its labs.

Also during dinner, Jobs chatted about the prospect of buying or producing a TiVo-like device, as well as his company's recent legal actions against Apple news sites.