WATCH: A video retrospective of the man who brought the world the Apple computer, the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, and iTunes media-player program. (AP video)
Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc. and the man who brought the world the iPod, iPad, iPhone, and Macintosh computer, has died at the age of 56.
Apple announced his death on October 5 without giving a specific cause, although reports quoted people close to Jobs saying it was the pancreatic cancer that had forced several leaves of absence before his recent exit as CEO that claimed his life.
"We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today," the company said in a brief statement. "Steve's brilliance, passion, and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve."
Shortly after the news was announced, the Apple website homepage
carried a black-and-white picture of Jobs, in his trademark black turtleneck and round glasses, with the caption, "Steve Jobs, 1955-2011."
Clicking on the photo brought users to a message from new Apple CEO Tim Cook. "Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being," it said. "Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple."
Jobs battled cancer in 2004 and received a liver transplant in 2009, after taking a leave of absence for unspecified health problems.
He took another leave of absence this past January -- his third since his health problems began -- and resigned as CEO six weeks ago. Jobs handed the CEO job over to Cook, his hand-picked successor, and assumed the role of chairman.
"I have always said that if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know," he said in a letter released by the company. "Unfortunately, that day has come."
'Great American Innovator'
Within hours of his death, the White House released a statement from President Barack Obama. "Michelle and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Jobs," it said. "Steve was among the greatest of American innovators -- brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it. By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity."
Jobs will be remembered as a visionary who led a new era of high-tech innovation, inventing and marketing gadgets that transformed everyday technology, from personal computers to smartphones.
"[For a] lot of people from my generation, the iPod was a huge deal," said Fred Velez, who was among the Silicon Valley workers and customers who gathered outside Apple headquarters and stores to pay tribute. "You know, he's just an icon -- not just an American icon but a world icon."
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who met Jobs during his June 2010 state visit to the United States, expressed his condolences, writing on Twitter: "People like Steve Jobs change our world."
Outside a store selling Apple products in Moscow, Apple fan Ilya agreed.
"You know, this was a person who could make the whole world do what he wanted them to do," Reuters quoted him as saying. "He decided the main trends in tablets and telephones. I don't know what will happen to the company but it's clear it will lose a lot of ground. An epoch is over, a genius is gone."
PHOTO GALLERY: A retrospective of Steve Jobs through the years, from Apple's garage-project prototype to the latest eagerly awaited versions of the company's iconic iPhone.
Jobs founded Apple with high-school friend Steve Wozniak in a Silicon Valley garage in 1976.
The company built an early reputation with the Apple II home computer, followed by the Macintosh, the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a mouse, introduced in 1984.
In a commencement address at Stanford University in California in June 2005, Jobs recalled those years, saying: "[Wozniak] and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2-billion company with over 4,000 employees. We had just released our finest creation -- the Macintosh -- a year earlier, and I had just turned 30."
After that, Apple's business stalled, and Jobs departed from the company in 1985 amid disputes with colleagues including then-chief executive John Sculley.
Jobs then became involved with two firms: computer maker Next and the computer-animation studio Pixar. In 2006, Disney bought Pixar for $7.4 billion in a transaction that made Jobs Disney's largest individual shareholder.
By 1996, Apple bought Next for its operating system technology, at a time when Apple was in dire financial straits, surrendering most of its market share to PCs that ran Microsoft Windows.
When he returned to the company he had co-founded in 1997, Jobs became the product team leader and public face of a company which, thanks to his charisma and innovative talent, pushed out an impressive series of successful products, shaking up the music and mobile-phone industries.
Apple's first new product under Jobs' direction, the brightly colored, plastic iMac, was launched in 1998 and sold about 2 million units in its first year.
In 2001, the firm introduced iTunes, used for playing and organizing digital music and video files on desktop computers, and to purchase and download music and television shows.
Jobs unveiled later that year the portable media player iPod, which offered "1,000 songs in your pocket."
"This is huge. How many times have you gone on the road with a CD player and said: 'Oh God, I didn't bring the CD I wanted to listen to'?" he said at its launch. "To have your whole music library with you at all times is a quantum leap in listening to music. But the coolest thing about iPod is that your entire music library fits in your pocket."
In 2007, the touch-screen iPhone arrived. Four years later, 100 million had been sold worldwide.
The iconic device can function as a video camera, a camera phone, a portable media player, with e-mail and web-browsing capabilities. Its "apps" have diverse functions, including games, managing money, GPS navigation, social networking, and storing photos.
In 2010, Jobs introduced the tablet-sized, all-touch computer iPad -- a platform for audio-visual media including books, periodicals, movies, music, games, and web content.
Propelled by its sales, Apple passed Microsoft to become the second-most-valuable company in May 2010 and briefly surpassed the No. 1, Exxon Mobil, in August 2011.
Jobs was inseparable from Apple's success.
Technology-sector analysts say that under him, Apple didn't invent computers, digital music players, or smartphones, but rather reinvented them, taking other people's concepts, improving on them, and spinning them into wildly successful products.
In an interview for the 1996 PBS series "Triumph of the Nerds," Jobs said: "It comes down to try to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then try to bring those things into what you're doing. Picasso had a saying; he said, 'Good artists copy, great artists steal.' And we've always been shameless about stealing great ideas."
Facing The End
Jobs talked at length about his cancer in a 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.
"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death," he told graduates.
In a statement, his family said, "Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family. In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family. We are thankful to the many people who have shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve's illness."
Jobs is survived by his wife, Laurene, and four children.
written by Antoine Blua with contributions from Heather Maher