SAN FRANCISCO--For a short time Monday morning the demo gods were not smiling on Steve Jobs.
About 40 minutes into the Apple CEO's keynote speech in which he was introducing his company's latest gadget, the iPhone 4,. He was attempting to show the difference in how Web site text was displayed between the new retina display feature on the iPhone 4 versus the iPhone 3GS, but the conference hall Wi-Fi set up at Moscone West was not cooperating. Only one of the phone's browser windows was loading. The other was blank except for the half-filled blue progress bar along the top.
Jobs fiddled with the phone for a few seconds in silence. "Well geez. I guess I can't show you that much today," he said reluctantly. "I can show you some pictures." So he moved on to that. He tried to come back to the demo of the phone's browser, but no luck.
"I'm sorry guys, I don't know what's going on," he said to the crowd of developers and media. "Got any suggestions?" he asked. Someone from the back helpfully shouted, "Verizon!" Though the crowd laughed, Jobs took it in stride. He said simply, "We're actually on Wi-Fi here."
It was an embarrassing and rare moment for Apple, and for Jobs, whose keynotes are known for being perfectly choreographed from beginning to end. He did, however, by the end have a solution.
About 20 minutes later, Jobs said he'd figured out that there were more than 570 Wi-Fi connections in the room that were disrupting his demo.
"So you guys have a choice: Either turn off your Wi-Fi (devices) or I give up. Would you like to see the demos?" he asked the crowd. "Then all you bloggers need to turn off your notebooks. Go ahead, just shut the lids. I'll wait," he said.
A few people in the media section did appear to be complying. We at CNET use our trusty Sprint 3G cards, so we weren't at fault for the Wi-Fi fail. However, that didn't stop an Apple public relations representative from telling us to turn off our computers. We politely declined.
But Jobs shouldn't feel that bad. The same thing happened at Google I/O two weeks ago in the same Moscone West conference room:, as the interference with Bluetooth signals onstage had brought their demo to a standstill.
But Apple doesn't usually let stuff like that happen more than once. Here's betting that's the last time Apple has free public Wi-Fi at one of their events.