The Apple co-founder has died at the age of 56, following a long battle with pancreatic cancer. His death comes just weeks after he publicly gave up his role as CEO of the company and named Tim Cook his successor, explaining:
"I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come."
In a letter to employees on Wednesday, Cook wrote, "Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. We will honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much." That work consisted of over three decades of innovation, during which he laid the foundation for the computer industry while striving to make products that were, as he put it, "the intersection of art and technology."
Reacting to the news, Bill Gates — one of the very few people to whom Jobs has been compared — said in a statement: "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 honor. I will miss Steve immensely.” President Obama also commented on the loss, calling Jobs “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.”
Jobs was the son of a pair of graduate students, Abdulfattah John Jandali and Joanne Schieble, who gave him up for adoption when he was only a few months old. He was taken in by Paul and Clara Jobs, who raised him in Cupertino, California, where Apple was later headquartered. After a semester at Oregon's Reed College, he dropped out to take a job at Atari and, later, spend time in India. When he returned to California in 1976, he launched Apple alongside Steve Wozniak, only to be ousted in 1984. He returned in 1997 to take Apple to the next — and, at the time, unimaginable — level with the creation of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. The ultimate result of his efforts is one of the most successful operations in the world, now valued at over $350 billion.
When Jobs left Apple in August, many wondered if the company could go on without him. Just a few days ago, stock dipped over Cook's first big move as CEO, the slightly disappointing unveiling of the iPhone 4S. There is also the question of what will happen to Jobs's personal fortune, which is estimated to be around $8.3 billion. In addition to his stake in Apple, Jobs became Disney's largest shareholder in 2006, after he sold Pixar to the entertainment company for $8 billion and a seat on the board. (The studio started out as a George Lucas–owned computer graphics shop, which Jobs bought from the director for $10 million and transformed into an animation powerhouse.) As was noted in August, Jobs had almost no (public) record of philanthropy, though friends speculated that his total focus on growing his business left little time for thought on anything else — including the fate of the money generated by the endeavor.