Apple Co-Founder, Chairman, and Visionary Steve Jobs Dies at 56

After starting Apple in a garage just 35 years ago, Jobs turned his company into one of the most successful in American history


Steve Jobs, the charismatic leader of Apple who is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and influential chief executives in American business, has died. He was 56 years old. Apple announced his passing in a short press release that went out earlier this evening. "Steve's brilliance, passion, and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives," it read. "The world is immeasurably better because of Steve."

Jobs stepped down from his position as head of Apple less than two months ago, in August, because of health concerns. He had served for most of the year as a shadow figure at the company that he co-founded with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne back in 1976; seven years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he was unable to make it into the office on a daily basis.

But even then nobody was convinced that Jobs was not running the company -- from his home office or the hospital, wherever he may have been at any given moment. Tim Cook, a celebrated leader in his own right, and Apple's COO since 2007, was happy to stay out of the spotlight even though he briefly held the title of CEO twice before -- when Jobs was recovering from pancreatic cancer surgery in 2004 and again in 2007 when Jobs took leave for a liver transplant. Nothing could separate Jobs from his work -- not again, anyway.

It had happened once before. Jobs lost his position as the director of Apple after an internal power struggle in 1985. Before he would return, eleven years later, he launched NeXT Computer and bought the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm for $10 million. That division was later renamed Pixar and Jobs served as CEO, a position that also gave him a seat on the board of directors at the Walt Disney Company.

When Jobs returned to Apple (Apple acquired NeXT for more than $400 million), the company was losing money. Jobs immediately went to work, cutting positions and focusing the company's vision. One of NeXT's products quickly morphed into Mac OS X, the series of operating systems that comes with all Apple computers. The iPod was introduced in 2001. That many of us no longer use the iPod even though sales have exceeded 300,000,000, is a testament to the innovative spirit that Jobs has infused the company with since his return. IPods and iPhones and iPads; MacBooks and AirBooks and iMacs. (Jobs alone has more than 300 patents to his name.) Apple continues to develop new, market-leading products that, as the press release says, make all of our lives better.

The full text of Apple's statement:

CUPERTINO, Calif. -- We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today.

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.

His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts.

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Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.