Apple Inc co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs, counted among the greatest American CEOs of his generation, has died at the age of 56, after a years-long and highly public battle with cancer and other health issues.
"We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today," Apple's board of directors said in a statement on Wednesday.
"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."
Tim Cook, Apple's current CEO, mourned the loss of Jobs.
"Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor," Cook, who succeeded Jobs, said.
"Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple."
Cook said the company was planning "a celebration of Steve's extraordinary life for Apple employees that will take place soon," and urged readers to share their memories of Jobs via e-mail at email@example.com.
Apple home page pay tribute
Apple turned its home page into a tribute to the co-founder, posting a large black-and-white photo of the company's visionary leader after the announcement of his death.
The photo shows Jobs in his trademark black turtleneck and small round glasses. The only caption to the photo is "Steve Jobs, 1955-2011."
The Silicon Valley icon who gave the world the iPod and the iPhone resigned as CEO of the world's largest technology corporation in August, handing the reins to Cook.
Jobs, who fought a rare form of pancreatic cancer, was deemed the heart and soul of a company that rivals Exxon Mobil as the most valuable in America.
His health had been a controversial topic for years. His battle with cancer had been a deep concern to Apple fans, investors and the company's board alike.
In past years, even board members had confided to friends their concern that Jobs, in his quest for privacy, wasn't being forthcoming enough with directors about the true condition of his health.
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Now, despite investor confidence in Cook, who has stood in for his boss, there remain concerns about whether the company would stay a creative force to be reckoned with beyond the next year or so without him.
The news triggered an immediate outpouring of sympathy. Among others, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said he will miss Jobs "immensely".
Ina Fried, Senior Editor, AllThingsD, told Al Jazeera: "This is a huge loss for the entire industry, there is only one Steve Jobs and his contributions are almost too hard to list. His influence is felt far and wide."
"The next gen leaders, from Mark Zuckerberg on, have all modeled themselves in Jobs' image.
"It's a tremendous loss for the entire technology industry."
Revolutionised mobile technology
A college dropout, Buddhist and son of adoptive parents, Jobs started Apple Computer with friend Steve Wozniak in the late 1970s. The company soon introduced the Apple 1 computer.
But it was the Apple II that became a huge success and gave Apple its position as a critical player in the then-nascent PC industry, culminating in a 1980 IPO that made Jobs a multimillionaire.
Despite the subsequent success of the Mac, Jobs' relationship with top management and the board soured. The company removed most of his powers and then in 1985 he was fired.
Apple's fortunes waned after that. However, its purchase of NeXT - the computer company Jobs founded after leaving Apple - in 1997 brought him back into the fold. Later that year, he became interim CEO and in 2000, the company dropped "interim" from his title.
Along the way Jobs also had managed to revolutionise computer animation with his other company, Pixar, but it was the iPhone in 2007 that capped his legacy in the annals of modern technology history.
Two years before the gadget that forever transformed the way people around the world access and use the Internet, Jobs talked about how a sense of his mortality was a major driver behind that vision.
"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life," Jobs said during a Stanford commencement ceremony in 2005.