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iPhone 4 keynote plagued by high-tech Wi-Fi meltdown

An abundance of Wi-Fi hotspots inside the Moscone Center on Monday caused technical difficulties for Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs, which resulted in some frustration for the showman, renowned for his usually polished presentations.

Jobs' keynote in San Francisco, Calif., came to a halt while he was attempting to show off the new, 326-pixel-per-inch display of the iPhone 4. As part of the presentation, Jobs attempted to go to the website of The New York Times to compare text readability, but the site wouldn't load.

"You know, you could help me out if you're on Wi-Fi, if you could just get off, I'd appreciate it," he said to laughter from the audience. "We're having a little problem here."

Unable to access any Web content, Jobs then pulled up photos on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS side-by-side to show off the screen improvements. But the chief executive was unsatisfied by the demonstration, which he felt did not adequately show off the new display.

Issues continued throughout the presentation, and Jobs revealed that there were 570 Wi-Fi base stations within the auditorium. Wi-Fi pollution occurs when there are too many wireless networks in an area, and the overlapping channels can cause slower speeds or dropped connections.

Jobs asked those in the audience liveblogging the event to turn off their base stations and put down their notebooks, though many refused.

"Wait, Steve is really asking everyone to stop liveblogging?" Ryan Block of gdgt wrote. "They're serious!"

"If you want to see the demos, there's no way to do it," Jobs said. "Set them on the floor."

Clayton Morris of Fox News, appearing live on the TWiT network after the keynote, said Apple employees began to come around the auditorium to ask people in attendance to turn off their devices.

"Yes, we're still here," Block wrote at the time in his liveblog of the event. "Sorry Steve."

Later in the presentation, Jobs was showing off the multitasking capabilities within iOS 4. As he streamed music and checked e-mail, he noted that he would "find out" if people in the audience had turned off their Wi-Fi devices. When the connection was successful, it earned cheers from the audience.

For his trademark "one more thing" at the end of the keynote, Jobs unveiled FaceTime, a new video chat service available over Wi-Fi for iPhone 4 owners. There, too, the connection stuttered, which inspired Jobs to complain about MiFi portable hotspots within the Moscone Center and note that the video chat "never" freezes up.

"I'm doing OK, except for these guys who aren't turning their Wi-Fi off," Jobs told designer Jony Ive through FaceTime. The irritated executive also remarked that Star Trek-style communicators, previously a creation of science fiction writers, are "real now, especially when people turn off their Wi-Fi."