Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dead at 56
Apple co-founder and tech visionary Steve Jobs, who transformed industries and the way much of the world communicates and consumes media, died Wednesday at 56 after a years-long and highly public battle with cancer.
His death was announced by Apple in a statement Wednesdaynight, and observers immediately reached for names like Einstein and Edison to characterize Jobs’ contributions.
The Silicon Valley icon, who gave the world pioneering Apple desktops, then later the watershed iPod, iPhone and iPad, had resigned as CEO of the world's largest technology corporation in August, handing the reins to current chief executive Tim Cook.
Jobs had been on medical leave since January, and has battled life-threatening health problems since 2004, when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In 2009 he underwent a secretive liver transplant, from which he said he had fully recovered.
Apple's website immediately became a tribute to Jobs' memory, with its homepage featuring an iconic picture of a younger, vigorous Jobs staring intently from behind his trademark circular eyeglasses.
"Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being," Apple wrote.
Jobs, seen as the heart and soul of Apple, has had an immeasurable impact on Apple, the tech industry and global culture overall, with his genius behind many of the products that defined how we create and consume media.
And though his death, despite his illnesses, still came as a shock to the public, Apple has long been planning for the day he would no longer be with the company, exemplified by its naming Tim Cook as company chief in August.
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and, at one point, enemy of Jobs, said he will "miss Steve immensely."
"The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come," Gates said. "For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor."
Jobs’ death will likely add to concerns about Apple’s creative vitality, worries exacerbated by what some saw as Cook’s lackluster launch of the iPhone 4S on Tuesday.
Apple fans at the company's 14th Street store were shocked and deeply saddened by the news.
"Jobs made the way people and their devices interact with each other more important than megabytes and specs," said Andrew Winton, 32, of the East village."
Sanjay Chatrie, 24, of East New York added that Jobs' visions are an everyday part of his life.
"I took it pretty hard when he stepped down, I had no idea he'd be gone so soon. A piece of this guy's imagination is part of my everyday life," said Chatrie, who clasped his hand over his mouth and was overcome with emotion when he heard the news.
"It's a real shame," Chatrie said. "With him, Apple was the best."
(with Sheila Anne Feeney and Reuters)
1972: Steve Jobs graduates high school and drops out of Reed College in Portland.
1974: Designs games for Atari
1975: Steve Jobs and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak start building computers in the garage of Jobs’ parents.
1977: Apple II is unveiled, the first personal computer in a plastic case with color graphics
1980: Apple stock goes public.
1984: Apple debuts the Macintosh personal computer
1985: Jobs forced out in power struggle
1986: Buys Pixar, and turns it into a transformative force in animation.
1997: Jobs returns as CEO
1998: Apple unveils the iMac desktop computer and the iBook the next year
2001: Apple introduces the iPod
2003: The iTunes Store opens; Jobs diagnosed with pancreatic cancer
2004: Returns to work after cancer surgery
2007: Apple introduces the iPhone, below
2010: Apple introduces the iPad
2011: Steps down in August, succeeded by Tim Cook
Follow reporter Tim Herrera on Twitter: @tim_herrera