Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who revolutionized technology through his design, marketing and creation of personal computers and mobile devices, has died at 56, the company announced Wednesday.

The man who forged Apple into a powerhouse and shaped how people listen to music and how they use computers died peacefully surrounded by his family.

"We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today," Apple 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."

Noticeably fragile, he had stepped down from Apple in late August to deal with the effects of an unspecified illness. Jobs had been treated earlier for pancreatic cancer after first being diagnosed in 2004.

His storied career followed a remarkable series of twists and turns — from a meteoric rise in the late 1970s and 1980s to a bleak nadir in the 1990s followed by his ascent to the status of tech guru.

Described by some as arrogant, temperamental and brutally honest about employee performance, Jobs was known and respected for his business acumen and an almost mystical ability to predict where tech trends were headed and what people wanted.

Tributes poured in from around the world, when news of Jobs's death was revealed.

"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," said U.S. President Barack Obama.

Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder, said he had known Jobs for more than 30 years, as a friend and as a competitor.

"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. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it's been an insanely great honour," said Gates.

Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape, said: "Steve was the best of the best. Like Mozart and Picasso, he may never be equalled."

Early life

Jobs was born on Feb. 24, 1955, to Joanne Simpson and Abdulfattah Jandali, an unwed couple who put their first-born son up for adoption. Raised by Paul and Clara Jobs, Steven Paul Jobs grew up in California and displayed a keen interest in electronics from an early age.

In high school, he met a kindred spirit in Steve Wozniak, a man who shared his passion for technology as well as practical jokes. The friendship would play a key role in the development of Apple and the career trajectory of Jobs.

The two got their start in the tech world by selling so-called "Blue Boxes," devices that gave users the ability to make free long-distance calls.

After graduating from Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif., Jobs enrolled at Reed College in Oregon in 1972. He dropped out after one semester, but remained in the area for another 18 months auditing classes such as calligraphy.

In 1974, he returned to California and began working at Atari, an early video game company. He also went on a spiritual journey to India with a friend, marking the start of his interest in Eastern philosophy and religion, including Buddhism.

The story of Steve and Steve

While Jobs was working at Atari, the company offered a bonus to anyone who could reduce the number of computer chips in its popular game Breakout. Jobs and Wozniak, who was working at Hewlett-Packard at the time, managed to eliminate a large number of them, which earned them a substantial reward.

Jobs, however, took a larger percentage of the cash reward, but did not tell his friend about the unequal distribution. Some say Wozniak was devastated when he learned later of the deception.

Beginning of Apple

In 1976, Wozniak and Jobs opened Apple Computer Company. The tech giant's spectacular rise, fall and resurgence would mirror Jobs's own life.

The company's first model, Apple I, was a simple circuit board, which was sold to computer enthusiasts. Its followup, however, turned out to be a huge success, vaulting the company from a relative unknown into a household name. Created in 1977, the Apple II was the first-ever complete home computer, which came fully functional right out of the box. It revolutionized the emerging industry.

Many credit Apple, and also Jobs, with changing the perception of what a computer can be — from a high-tech tool used only by the business or science world to a commonplace device used by ordinary people.

Apple and the economic fortune of its co-founder continued to grow. After the company's initial public offering in 1980, Jobs was worth over $200 million US.

"We've lost something we won't get back," Wozniak said in an interview with The Associated Press following Jobs's death.

"The way I see it, though, the way people love products he put so much into creating means he brought a lot of life to the world."

Apple stalls

Personal life

  • In 1978, Jobs's first daughter, Lisa, was born — although initially he denied he was the father.
  • In the 1980s, he began the process of reconciling with his daughter — and learned of his birth parents.
  • He married his current wife, Laurene Powell, in 1991.
  • They would have three children together.

Following the initial success of the Apple II, the company — and Jobs — suffered a series of setbacks. The Apple III sold poorly. When IBM entered the market in 1981 with its personal computer, it put pressure on Apple, with the PC eventually grabbing a larger piece of computer sales.

Apple launched the Macintosh in 1984, the design of which was overseen by Jobs. Despite some initial success, the computer did not sell as well as expected.

During this time, many at Apple became disgruntled with Jobs's management style, especially after several of his engineers on the Macintosh project learned they were paid less than teams on other projects. Much of this came to a head in 1985, when Jobs struggled with CEO John Sculley for control of the company. Jobs attempted a boardroom coup, but it backfired. He was left with no managerial responsibility at Apple but remained chairman. He resigned from the company that same year.

NeXT Computer and Pixar

Jobs's next venture was starting NeXT Computer, in which he hoped to design an advanced computer for higher education and research. Much like the computers that followed Apple II, the NeXT Cube turned out to be largely a commercial failure, despite its impressive computing power.

During this time, Jobs also came into contact with a small group of graphics experts who were keen to begin making computer-animated movies. In 1986, he bought the little-known company, Pixar, from George Lucas for $10 million US. Much like NeXT, the company was initially unsuccessful and Jobs was forced to reduce its size.

Things started to turn around for Jobs after Pixar signed a contract with Disney to create the first computer-animated feature film, Toy Story. Launched during the holiday season in 1995, the movie proved to be a blockbuster and helped propel Jobs back into economic success — and the spotlight.

Return to Apple

Jobs found himself back at the company he helped found when NeXT was purchased by Apple in 1997 for 1.5 million shares of stock and more than $400 million US. That same year, Jobs was named interim CEO of Apple, after the company posted huge losses. He would go on to reorganize the company and once again turn it into a profit-making enterprise.

During the restructuring, many employees said they worried about meeting Apple's new boss in the elevator, for fear they would not have a job by the time the doors opened.

In 1998, Apple released the easy-to-use iMac, an improvement over previous models with an esthetically pleasing design. It was well received and helped re-establish the company's brand. Jobs always had an eye for what the consumer wanted.

Jobs was named CEO of Apple in 2000. He jokingly referred to himself at the time as the iCEO.

Throughout the next few years, the company continued to produce a series of successful products, most notably the iPod, which would come to dominate the MP3 player market. Success and commendation would follow Apple and Jobs through the decade.

In 2007, Apple unveiled the iPhone, to great acclaim. The company followed up this success with the launch of the iPad in 2010.

In 2010, Jobs was ranked as the 42nd-richest person in the United States, with a net worth of over $6 billion US. He was also ranked 17th on a list of the world's most powerful people.

Research in Motion CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie called Jobs a "great visionary and a respected competitor."

Health problems

In 2004, Jobs announced that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He took a month off for treatment and recuperation.

He took another medical leave of absence between January and June of 2009, during which he underwent a liver transplant.

In an email sent to Apple employees on Jan. 17, 2011, Jobs said he was taking a third medical leave and would be putting Tim Cook in charge of day-to-day operations. In the note, Jobs said he would still be involved in major strategic decisions for the company.

A month later, Jobs was part of a group of a dozen top tech CEOs invited to a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in San Francisco, as part of his effort to focus on high-tech initiatives.