Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, who put together one of the world’s most successful companies with pals in a garage, has died, the company announced on Wednesday. He was 56.
(PICTURES: Jobs Through The Years)
Jobs had fought for years against a rare form of cancer called a neuroendocrine tumor, but had kept his health circumstances mostly private despite open speculation about his increasingly gaunt appearance and lengthy medical leaves.
“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. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple,” the company said in a note on its website.
The man who brought the world the personal computer, who helped make laptops standard equipment for children and business leaders alike and whose iPods allowed all comers to carry entire libraries of music, pictures, and data in their pockets, resigned as CEO of Apple in August, leaving little doubt that his health was the cause.
Jobs seemed to have a rapport with President Obama, personally delivering him an iPad once and having dinner with the president and other tech leaders in Silicon Valley last February.
"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," Obama said in a statement.
"By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun," added Obama, who is often seen carrying an iPad.
"Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world. The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Steve’s wife Laurene, his family, and all those who loved him."
Despite his friendly relationship with Obama and unlike other tech leaders, Jobs ensured that Apple kept a low profile in Washington. He eschewed social events, didn’t employ a stable of lobbyists, and had to be pestered to even send a representative to Hill hearings on issues affecting his business. He did not grant interviews to important journalists, and Jobs himself never appeared before Congress.
“It’s a company that keeps its head down [and focuses] on its products. It’s rarely seen as a front-runner on issues,” Association for Competitive Technology President Morgan Reed, whose group represents many makers of applications used on iPhones and other Apple products, said in an interview after Jobs stepped down in August.
And despite Apple’s huge reserves of cash and Jobs’s undoubted wealth -- Apple had more cash this summer than the U.S. Treasury -- he didn’t seek to become a public philanthropist like his longtime rival Bill Gates, who loves to meet with world leaders and encourage investment in health, education, and other causes. Gates praised Jobs Wednesday night. “I’m truly saddened to learn of Steve Jobs’s death. Melinda and I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to everyone Steve has touched through his work,” the Microsoft founder said.
Another rival, Michael Dell, echoed those sentiments. “Today the world lost a visionary leader, the technology industry lost an iconic legend, and I lost a friend and fellow founder,” Dell, chief executive and founder of Dell Inc., said in a statement.
Jobs had admirers on the Hill, too, some who weighed in via Twitter.
"Saddened to hear the news about Steve Jobs -- he changed the world and made it a better place," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., tweeted.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was a little more old-fashioned, issuing her statement via e-mail. “Steve Jobs was a California icon who embodied Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial spirit of creativity and optimism. By revolutionizing communications, he touched the lives of billions of people around the world. He will be sorely missed," she said.
"He had an uncanny knack for knowing what consumers wanted," Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., said in an e-mail of her own. "And he delivered one cutting-edge product after another, improving the way that we access information, communicate with each other, shop online, and so many other ways that we now take for granted as part of our everyday lives," she added.
"I believe history will remember Steve Jobs as one of the greatest innovators of all time, the Thomas Edison of the 21st Century."
Jobs never said whether it was his cancer that forced his resignation from Apple. His family issued a circumspect statement. "Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family," it read. "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."
Just the day before Jobs died, his successor Tim Cook debuted onstage as CEO, presenting a new and improved version of the iPhone to an expectant audience. Like Jobs, he wore jeans and a dark shirt, but he didn't try to reprise the famed Jobs trick of waiting until the very last moment to present some wonderful new gadget.
Juliana Gruenwald and Josh Smith contributed