Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dead at 56

(AP) - Steve Jobs saw the future and led the worldto it. He moved technology from garages to pockets, tookentertainment from discs to bytes and turned gadgets intoextensions of the people who use them.

Jobs, who founded and ran Apple, told us what we needed beforewe wanted it.

"To some people, this is like Elvis Presley or John Lennon.It's a change in our times. It's the end of an era," said ScottRobbins, 34, a barber and an Apple fan. "It's like the end of theinnovators."

Apple announced his death without giving a specific cause. Hedied peacefully on Wednesday, according to a statement from familymembers who were present. He was 56.

"Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source ofcountless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives,"Apple's board said in a statement. "The world is immeasurablybetter because of Steve."

President Barack Obama said in a statement that Jobs"exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity."

"Steve was among the greatest of American innovators - braveenough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could changethe world and talented enough to do it," he said.

Jobs had battled cancer in 2004 and underwent a liver transplantin 2009 after taking a leave of absence for unspecified healthproblems. He took another leave of absence in January - his thirdsince his health problems began - and resigned in August. Jobsbecame Apple's chairman and handed the CEO job over to hishand-picked successor, Tim Cook.

Outside Apple's Cupertino headquarters, three flags - anAmerican flag, a California state flag and an Apple flag - wereflying at half-staff late Wednesday.

"Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and workwith Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor." Cookwrote in an email to Apple's employees. "Steve leaves behind acompany that only he could have built, and his spirit will foreverbe the foundation of Apple."

The news Apple fans and shareholders had been dreading came theday after Apple unveiled its latest iPhone, a device that got alukewarm reception. Perhaps, there would have been more excitementhad Jobs been well enough to show it off with his trademarktheatrics.

Jobs started Apple with a high school friend in a Silicon Valleygarage in 1976, was forced out a decade later and returned in 1997to rescue the company. During his second stint, it grew into themost valuable technology company in the world with a market valueof $351 billion. Almost all that wealth has been created sinceJobs' return.

Cultivating Apple's countercultural sensibility and a minimalistdesign ethic, Jobs rolled out one sensational product afteranother, even in the face of the late-2000s recession and his ownfailing health.

He helped change computers from a geeky hobbyist's obsession toa necessity of modern life at work and home, and in the process heupended not just personal technology but the cellphone and musicindustries.

For transformation of American industry, he has few rivals. Hehas long been linked to his personal computer-age contemporary,Bill Gates, and has drawn comparisons to other creative geniusessuch as Walt Disney. Jobs died as Walt Disney Co.'s largestshareholder, a by-product of his decision to sell computeranimation studio Pixar in 2006.

Perhaps most influentially, Jobs in 2001 launched the iPod,which offered "1,000 songs in your pocket." Over the next 10years, its white earphones and thumb-dial control seemed to becomemore ubiquitous than the wristwatch.

In 2007 came the touch-screen iPhone, joined a year later byApple's App Store, where developers could sell iPhone "apps"which made the phone a device not just for making calls but alsofor managing money, editing photos, playing games and socialnetworking. And in 2010, Jobs introduced the iPad, a tablet-sized,all-touch computer that took off even though market analysts saidno one really needed one.

By 2011, Apple had become the second-largest company of any kindin the United States by market value. In August, it brieflysurpassed Exxon Mobil as the most valuable company.

Under Jobs, the company cloaked itself in secrecy to buildfrenzied anticipation for each of its new products. Jobs himselfhad a wizardly sense of what his customers wanted, and where demanddidn't exist, he leveraged a cult-like following to create it.

When he spoke at Apple presentations, almost always in fadedblue jeans, sneakers and a black mock turtleneck, legions of Appleacolytes listened to every word. He often boasted about Applesuccesses, then coyly added a coda - "one more thing" - beforeintroducing its latest ambitious idea.

In later years, Apple investors also watched these appearancesfor clues about his health. Jobs revealed in 2004 that he had beendiagnosed with a very rare form of pancreatic cancer - an isletcell neuroendocrine tumor. He underwent surgery and said he hadbeen cured. In 2009, following weight loss he initially attributedto a hormonal imbalance, he abruptly took a six-month leave. Duringthat time, he received a liver transplant that became public twomonths after it was performed.

He went on another medical leave in January 2011, this time foran unspecified duration. He never went back and resigned as CEO inAugust, though he stayed on as chairman. Consistent with hispenchant for secrecy, he didn't reference his illness in hisresignation letter.

Steven Paul Jobs was born Feb. 24, 1955, in San Francisco toJoanne Simpson, then an unmarried graduate student, and AbdulfattahJandali, a student from Syria. Simpson gave Jobs up for adoption,though she married Jandali and a few years later had a second childwith him, Mona Simpson, who became a novelist.

Steven was adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs of Los Altos,California, a working-class couple who nurtured his early interestin electronics. He saw his first computer terminal at NASA's AmesResearch Center when he was around 11 and landed a summer job atHewlett-Packard before he had finished high school.

Jobs enrolled in Reed College in Portland, Ore., in 1972 butdropped out after six months.

"All of my working-class parents' savings were being spent onmy college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value init," he said at a Stanford University commencement address in2005. "I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no ideahow college was going to help me figure it out."

When he returned to California in 1974, Jobs worked for videogame maker Atari and attended meetings of the Homebrew ComputerClub - a group of computer hobbyists - with Steve Wozniak, a highschool friend who was a few years older.

Wozniak's homemade computer drew attention from otherenthusiasts, but Jobs saw its potential far beyond the geekyhobbyists of the time. The pair started Apple Computer Inc. inJobs' parents' garage in 1976. According to Wozniak, Jobs suggestedthe name after visiting an "apple orchard" that Wozniak said wasactually a commune.

Their first creation was the Apple I - essentially, the guts ofa computer without a case, keyboard or monitor.

The Apple II, which hit the market in 1977, was their firstmachine for the masses. It became so popular that Jobs was worth$100 million by age 25.

During a 1979 visit to the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, Jobsagain spotted mass potential in a niche invention: a computer thatallowed people to control computers with the click of a mouse, nottyped commands. He returned to Apple and ordered his engineeringteam to copy what he had seen.

It foreshadowed a propensity to take other people's concepts,improve on them and spin them into wildly successful products.Under Jobs, Apple didn't invent computers, digital music players orsmartphones - it reinvented them for people who didn't want tolearn computer programming or negotiate the technical hassles ofkeeping their gadgets working.

"We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas,"Jobs said in an interview for the 1996 PBS series "Triumph of theNerds."

The engineers responded with two computers. The pricier Lisa -the same name as his daughter - launched to a cool reception in1983. The less-expensive Macintosh, named for an employee'sfavorite apple, exploded onto the scene in 1984.

The Mac was heralded by an epic Super Bowl commercial thatreferenced George Orwell's "1984" and captured Apple'siconoclastic style. In the ad, expressionless drones marchedthrough dark halls to an auditorium where a Big Brother-like figurelectures on a big screen. A woman in a bright track uniform burstinto the hall and launched a hammer into the screen, whichexploded, stunning the drones, as a narrator announced the arrivalof the Mac.

There were early stumbles at Apple. Jobs clashed with colleaguesand even the CEO he had hired away from Pepsi, John Sculley. Andafter an initial spike, Mac sales slowed, in part because fewprograms had been written for it.

With Apple's stock price sinking, conflicts between Jobs andSculley mounted. Sculley won over the board in 1985 and pushed Jobsout of his day-to-day role leading the Macintosh team. Jobsresigned his post as chairman of the board and left Apple withinmonths.

"What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, andit was devastating," Jobs said in his Stanford speech. "I didn'tsee it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple wasthe best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heavinessof being successful was replaced by the lightness of being abeginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enterone of the most creative periods of my life."

He got into two other companies: Next, a computer maker, andPixar, a computer-animation studio that he bought from George Lucasfor $10 million.

Pixar, ultimately the more successful venture, seemed at first abottomless money pit. Then in 1995 came "Toy Story," the firstcomputer-animated full-length feature. Jobs used its success tonegotiate a sweeter deal with Disney for Pixar's next two films,"A Bug's Life" and "Toy Story 2." Jobs sold Pixar to The WaltDisney Co. for $7.4 billion in stock in a deal that got him a seaton Disney's board and 138 million shares of stock that accountedfor most of his fortune. Forbes magazine estimated Jobs was worth$7 billion in a survey last month.

With Next, Jobs came up with a cube-shaped computer. He was saidto be obsessive about the tiniest details, insisting on designperfection even for the machine's guts. The machine cost a pricey$6,500 to $10,000, and he never managed to spark much demand forit.

Ultimately, he shifted the focus to software - a move that paidoff later when Apple bought Next for its operating systemtechnology, the basis for the software still used in Mac computers.

By 1996, when Apple bought Next, Apple was in dire financialstraits. It had lost more than $800 million in a year, dragged itsheels in licensing Mac software for other computers and surrenderedmost of its market share to PCs that ran Windows.

Larry Ellison, Jobs' close friend and fellow Silicon Valleybillionaire and the CEO of Oracle Corp., publicly contemplatedbuying Apple in early 1997 and ousting its leadership. The ideafizzled, but Jobs stepped in as interim chief later that year.

He slashed unprofitable projects, narrowed the company's focusand presided over a new marketing push to set the Mac apart fromWindows, starting with a campaign encouraging computer users to"Think different."

Apple's first new product under his direction, the brightlycolored, plastic iMac, launched in 1998 and sold about 2 million inits first year. Apple returned to profitability that year. Jobsdropped the "interim" from his title in 2000.

He changed his style, too, said Tim Bajarin, who met Jobsseveral times while covering the company for Creative Strategies.

"In the early days, he was in charge of every detail. The onlyway you could say it is, he was kind of a control freak," he said.In his second stint, "he clearly was much more mellow and moremature."

In the decade that followed, Jobs kept Apple profitable whilepushing out an impressive roster of new products.

Apple's popularity exploded in the 2000s. The iPod, smaller andsleeker with each generation, introduced many lifelong Windowsusers to their first Apple gadget.

The arrival of the iTunes music store in 2003 gave people aconvenient way to buy music legally online, song by song. For themusic industry, it was a mixed blessing. The industry got a way toreach Internet-savvy people who, in the age of Napster, weregrowing accustomed to downloading music free. But online sales alsohastened the demise of CDs and established Apple as a gatekeeper,resulting in battles between Jobs and music executives over pricingand other issues.

Jobs' command over gadget lovers and pop culture swelled to thepoint that, on the eve of the iPhone's launch in 2007, faithfulfollowers slept on sidewalks outside posh Apple stores for thechance to buy one. Three years later, at the iPad's debut, thelines snaked around blocks and out through parking lots, eventhough people had the option to order one in advance.

The decade was not without its glitches. In the mid-2000s, Applewas swept up in a Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry intostock options backdating, a practice that artificially raised thevalue of options grants. But Jobs and Apple emerged unscathed aftertwo former executives took the fall and eventually settled with theSEC.

Jobs' personal ethos - a natural food lover who embracedBuddhism and New Age philosophy - was closely linked to the publicpersona he shaped for Apple. Apple itself became a statementagainst the commoditization of technology - a cynical view, to besure, from a company whose computers can cost three or more timesas much as those of its rivals.

For technology lovers, buying Apple products has meant gainingentrance to an exclusive club. At the top was a complicated andcontradictory figure who was endlessly fascinating - even to hisdetractors, of which Jobs had many. Jobs was a hero to techno-geeksand a villain to partners he bullied and to workers whose projectshe unceremoniously killed or claimed as his own.

Unauthorized biographer Alan Deutschman described him as"deeply moody and maddeningly erratic." In his personal life,Jobs denied for two years that he was the father of Lisa, the babyborn to his longtime girlfriend Chrisann Brennan in 1978.

Few seemed immune to Jobs' charisma and will. He could adeptlyconvince those in his presence of just about anything - even ifthey disagreed again when he left the room and his magic wore off.

"He always has an aura around his persona," said Bajarin, whomet Jobs several times while covering the company for more than 20years as a Creative Strategies analyst. "When you talk to him, youknow you're really talking to a brilliant mind."

But Bajarin also remembers Jobs lashing out with profanity at anemployee who interrupted their meeting. Jobs, the perfectionist,demanded greatness from everyone at Apple.

Jobs valued his privacy, but some details of his romantic andfamily life have been uncovered. In the early 1980s, Jobs dated thefolk singer Joan Baez, according to Deutschman.

In 1989, Jobs spoke at Stanford's graduate business school andmet his wife, Laurene Powell, who was then a student. When shebecame pregnant, Jobs at first refused to marry her. It was anear-repeat of what had happened more than a decade earlier withthen-girlfriend Brennan, Deutschman said, but eventually Jobsrelented.

Jobs started looking for his biological family in his teens,according to an interview he gave to The New York Times in 1997. Hefound his biological sister when he was 27. They became friends,and through her Jobs met his biological mother. Few details ofthose relationships have been made public.

But the extent of Apple secrecy didn't become clear until Jobsrevealed in 2004 that he had been diagnosed with - and "cured" of- a rare form of operable pancreatic cancer called an islet cellneuroendocrine tumor. The company had sat on the news of hisdiagnosis for nine months while Jobs tried trumping the diseasewith a special diet, Fortune magazine reported in 2008.

In the years after his cancer was revealed, rumors about Jobs'health would spark runs on Apple stock as investors worried thecompany, with no clear succession plan, would fall apart withouthim. Apple did little to ease those concerns. It kept the state ofJobs' health a secret for as long as it could, then disclosed vaguedetails when, in early 2009, it became clear he was again ill.

Jobs took a half-year medical leave of absence starting inJanuary 2009, during which he had a liver transplant. Apple did notdisclose the procedure at the time; two months later, The WallStreet Journal reported the fact and a doctor at the transplanthospital confirmed it.

In January 2011, Jobs announced another medical leave, histhird, with no set duration. He returned to the spotlight brieflyin March to personally unveil a second-generation iPad and again inJune, when he showed off Apple's iCloud music synching service. Atboth events, he looked frail in his signature jeans and mockturtleneck.

Less than three months later, Jobs resigned as CEO. In a letteraddressed to Apple's board and the "Apple community" Jobs said he"always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meetmy duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first tolet you know. Unfortunately, that day has come."

In 2005, following the bout with cancer, Jobs delivered StanfordUniversity's commencement speech.

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important toolI've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life," hesaid. "Because almost everything - all external expectations, allpride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things justfall away in the face of death, leaving only what is trulyimportant."

Jobs is survived by his biological mother; his sister MonaSimpson; Lisa Brennan-Jobs, his daughter with Brennan; wifeLaurene, and their three children, Erin, Reed and Eve.

AP wire services contributed to the report.White House statementKey dates from the life and work of Steve Jobs

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