Welcome to the greatest show on earth, live from San Francisco.

The keynote should have been held at the Warfield, or the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – some place befitting the demigod aura of Steve Jobs.  Say what you will about the Apple CEO, he’s the only tech mogul capable of upstaging actual rock stars.

Or even an MOR icon like Randy Newman, who performed the encore to Jobs’ annual journey into the Reality Distortion Field, where products aren’t just tools or toys – they’re life-changing forces of nature.

A seat for Jobs’ speech to start the 24th annual MacWorld Expo at San Francisco’s Moscone Center had the cachet of a U2 nightclub show, and the revolution was not televised, or even webcast.  Exclusivity is an annoying part of the company’s DNA.  Someone should remind Steve that even sold-out football games aren’t tape-delayed anymore.

Of course, guaranteed admission cost about as much as a Super Bowl ticket. Platinum show pass holders had priority seating – for about two grand. 

None of today’s announcements are six o’clock news material.   Software upgrades (for the iPhone and AppleTV) may make the geeks happy, but most people could care less.  iTunes movie rentals? Ho hum – NetFlix also rolled out their version today.

This year’s sexy thing was without a doubt the  the MacSkinny, er, MacBook Air.  The much-anticipated subnotebook is a mere .76″ thick, a stunt Apple manages by eliminating the CD slot from the machine.  Software installation is done via the Internet, or through a wireless connection to another optical drive.

The built-in hard drive is a mere 80GB, though a solid state 64GB drive (now that’s sexy!) is an available option – for $999, more than half the cost of the base model.

The MacBook Air is fast (Intel Core Duo 2 running at up to 1.8 GHz) and beefy (2 GB RAM standard). Though not the first ultraportable, it could be the best.

But I doubt Katie Couric will be talking about it tonight. 

AppleTV is cheaper, and no longer requires a computer – movies, including those in high definition, can be bought from the iTunes store and copied directly to the device’s hard drive.   This upgrade is also available for current AppleTV owners, an uncharacteristic move for the typically backward-compatible averse company.  

Twentieth Century Fox’s plan to offer DVD purchases that include an iTunes digital download included represented the only paradigm-shifting revelation of the keynote.

More to come….