His creation of iTunes as an online way to purchase music digitally helped transform the music industry and delivered a blow to the standard industry practice of packaging music in albums or CDs.
Jobs' work at Apple and other projects made him a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine in 2011 at $7 billion. He was No.110 on Forbes' list of billionaires worldwide and No.39 in the U.S. in the magazine's September 2011 estimates.
Jobs, a Buddhist, was married to Laurene Powell Jobs, 47. He had four children, three with Powell Jobs. A fourth child, Lisa, had an early Apple computer -- a predecessor to the Macintosh -- named after her.
Apple, and a reboot
Jobs dropped out of college to build computers with high school friend Steve Wozniak, creating what became the Apple I computer in 1976.
As sales lagged by the 1980s, Jobs was ousted from the company's leadership in a 1985 boardroom coup. He returned in 1996 after Apple bought his technology start-up, NeXT, for $400 million. Within months, Jobs took over as CEO and led a major corporate turnaround.
Five years later, with the release of the iPod personal digital music player, Apple had leaped from computer maker to become the leading consumer electronics giant worldwide.
Once on the brink of a financial abyss, Apple had a market value of $350 billion -- not far behind No.2 ExxonMobil -- by the time Jobs resigned as CEO in August 2011.
After his forced departure from Apple, Jobs bought what became Pixar from filmmaker George Lucas. The digital animation movie company has produced box office hits including Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Disney bought the company for $7.4 billion in 2006. Jobs held a 7.3% ownership stake in Disney.
Jobs was known for creating a culture of secrecy at Apple that fueled intense media speculation about the company's next product. Jobs himself introduced major products with flair at highly anticipated events that proved to be one of the company's best marketing tools.
He didn't hesitate to level caustic comments at competitors, particularly Microsoft in earlier years and later Google, which he ridiculed as evil, mediocre and lacking in taste. His skewering of Microsoft was parodied in a series of TV ads featuring the characters "Mac" and "PC."
Jobs was known for firing employees in profanity-laced tantrums and reducing some subordinates to tears. Yet many of his top deputies at Apple and Pixar worked with him for years.
Jobs is listed as an inventor or co-inventor on 313 Apple patents.
Although he brought simple, elegant technology to the masses, the reclusive Jobs often was uncomfortable around others and rarely spoke publicly or to reporters. His reluctance to appear in public led to questions about his health, as did a dramatic loss in weight and gaunt appearance.
Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003. He informed Apple employees in 2004.
"No one wants to die," he said in a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005. "And yet death is the destination we all share."
"Jobs led an enormous cultural shift of the businessman as a creative, even artistic, force," says Alan Deutschman, author of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs.
"When Jobs first came on the scene, it wasn't cool to be in business," Deutschman says. "Through the 1970s, the Dow hardly moved. Being in business was seen as being a total sellout. But Jobs was young and glamorous, and gave business that image. Now, young people aspire to be in business."
The early years
Steven Paul Jobs was born in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 1955, to unwed parents. He was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs of Mountain View, Calif.
The young Jobs contacted William Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, to ask for parts for a class project. Impressed, Hewlett offered Jobs a summer internship.
Jobs briefly went to Reed College in Portland, Ore. After a stint as a video-game designer at Atari, he trekked to India in 1974, where he embraced Eastern culture and religion.
In 1975, Jobs began hanging out with Wozniak. Jobs, then 21, and Wozniak co-founded Apple Computer in Jobs' parents' garage.
By 25, Jobs was a millionaire. His first go-round at Apple was highlighted by the introduction, in 1984, of the Macintosh, a revolutionary personal computer with an inviting graphical user-interface and a mouse that popularized PCs.
In a 1996 interview in San Francisco, Jobs offered a glimpse of his hopes to mirror the success of Walt Disney and George Lucas. "Computers are commodities with a six-month shelf life," he said. "Classics like Snow White and Fantasia are passed from generation to generation."
Wozniak said Apple is a reflection of Jobs' creative daring: "He helped it achieve incredible things in music, smartphones, tablets and retail, while still making great computers."
"Almost every computer in the world has some Steve Jobs' history in it," Wozniak said Wednesday night on ABC's Nightline.
Leander Kahney, author of Inside Steve's Brain, said Jobs reconciled conflicting traits -- "narcissism, perfectionism, total faith in his intuition" -- to create an eclectic business philosophy. "In the process, he became a self-made billionaire."
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