Apple's Jobs looks to the cloud

A thin but energetic Steve Jobs appeared onstage in San Francisco on Monday, fielding cheers and applause as he opened Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference.

Apple is scheduled to unveil its newest venture at the conference later on Monday, taking iPods and iPads straight into the ether with the new iCloud service.

Jobs has been clear for a decade that he wants to free up the ubiquitous portable devices from his nemesis - the PC - and this could be the solution. Instead of storing music, videos, books, photographs, and podcasts on a personal computer and then syncing portable devices, users will be able to access their stuff anywhere they can get a wifi or cell phone signal.

Jobs has been on medical leave since January - he has been treated in the past for a rare form of pancreatic cancer - but he has reappeared for important events such as unveiling the iPad2 in March. On Monday, he appeared in his trademark black sweater and jeans to open the conference before handing off to Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, Philip Schiller.

Media reports suggest Apple has made deals with record labels and other players that will make its iCloud service available for a stunningly cheap $25 a year.

This would put it ahead of rivals Google and Amazon, which must provide server space for each individual user of their cloud services. A licensing deal could mean Apple's users can access songs and videos from Apple's existing library - cutting back on how much server space Apple needs.