Steve Jobs, the innovative co-founder of Apple who transformed personal use of technology as well as entire industries with products such as the iPod, iPad, iPhone, Macintosh computer and the iTunes Store, died Wednesday.
The Apple chairman was 56.
The iconic American CEO, whose impact many have compared to auto magnate Henry Ford and Walt Disney -- whom Jobs openly admired -- abruptly stepped down from his position as CEO of Apple in August because of health concerns. He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer and underwent a liver transplant in 2009 although Apple, in announcing his death, did not list a cause.
"Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being," the company said on its website. "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."
Apple invited "thoughts, memories and condolences" at email@example.com.
President Obama mourned Jobs' passing, saying he exemplified American ingenuity and innovation: "Brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it."
"Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: He changed the way each of us sees the world," Obama said.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, long regarded as Jobs' foil in the early years of personal computing, said he was truly saddened. "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. I will miss Steve immensely."
Jobs' death came just a day after Apple's new CEO, Tim Cook, unveiled the latest and much-anticipated version of the iPhone, which contained internal updates but lacked the kind of dramatic new design or function that created marketing excitement around previous versions.
Although Jobs had stepped aside from running Apple on a day-to-day basis, his death raises questions about the company's ability to continue to amaze consumers with new, must-have products that have helped to define a generation. It's a question that was reinforced by the muted reaction from Wall Street and technology watchers to the latest iPhone announcement.
"You don't replace Steve Jobs," said Brian Sullivan, CEO of executive search firm CTPartners. "You slice up what he does: product development, vision and marketing. No one person can bring his swagger and savoir faire to Apple."
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, a former Apple board member, called Jobs the best CEO of the past 50 years -- perhaps 100 years.
Jobs' success flowed from a relentless focus on making products that were easy and intuitive for the typical consumer to use. His products were characterized by groundbreaking design and style that, along with their technological usefulness, made them objects of intense desire by consumers worldwide.
He was known as a demanding, mercurial boss and an almost mystical figure. Author and business consultant Jim Collins once called Jobs the "Beethoven of business."
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