Affiliate Disclosure
If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Read our ethics policy.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passes away at 56

Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple and a driving force behind the creation of the Mac, iPhone, iPad and iPod, died Wednesday after a long bout with cancer. He was 56.

The passing of Jobs was announced on Wednesday by Apple. The company has encouraged "thoughts, memories, and condolences" to be sent to [email protected].

"Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being," the company said in a statement. "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."

Jobs left his position as chief executive of Apple in late August, saying he could no longer meet his duties. For years he fought pancreatic cancer, but Jobs was adamant that his health was a private matter.

His passing comes just a day after Apple introduced its latest smartphone, the iPhone 4S. Though Jobs traditionally handled his company's media events, he was not capable of delivering its latest keynote, and current CEO Tim Cook presided over the event.

Jobs was known for being a showman, and had the ability to captivate a crowd with his charisma, enthusiasm, and frequent promises of "one more thing" to serve as a surprise capstone for keynote presentations, where he would introduce Apple's latest and greatest products.

Among those products was the iPhone, first introduced in 2007, which went on to become the best-selling smartphone in the world. The success of the iPhone has been so staggering that it propelled Apple to become the largest company in the world by market cap.

But Jobs was more than a salesman known jokingly for the so-called "reality distortion field" that influenced those around him; he was also a hands-on leader who played an important role in the creation of many of the company's iconic devices. He leaves behind an unparalleled portfolio of more than 300 patented inventions credited to his name.

Jobs' leadership and guidance helped to make Apple the most valuable technology company in the world, surpassing its longtime rival Microsoft. That feat is even more astonishing when one considers that Apple as a company was nearly dead when Jobs began his second tenure as CEO in 1997.

Even while away from Apple, Jobs continued to find success, including the founding of acclaimed and Oscar-winning movie studio Pixar, creator of films like "Toy Story," "Up," and "The Incredibles." He also founded the company NeXT which was acquired by Apple in the late '90s, laying the foundation for Mac OS X, the operating system that powers Macintosh computers to this day.

His accomplishments have not gone unnoticed, and Jobs became one of the most recognizable faces in all of the business world. In 2009, Fortune named Jobs its CEO of the Decade, and he has been openly compared to other visionaries in business like Walt Disney and Henry Ford.

An unprecedented look at Jobs' life will arrive this November in the form of an authorized biography written by former Time editor Walter Isaacson.

Jobs' family provided the following statement on Wednesday:

Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family.

In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family. We are thankful to the many people who have shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve’s illness; a website will be provided for those who wish to offer tributes and memories.

We are grateful for the support and kindness of those who share our feelings for Steve. We know many of you will mourn with us, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief.

"No words can adequately express our sadness at Steve’s death or our gratitude for the opportunity to work with him," Cook said in a statement issued on Wednesday. "We will honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much."

Below is the full statement from Apple's board of directors on the passing of Jobs:

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.