STEVE Jobs, Apple’s celebrated founder, has died aged 56.
Jobs passed away late last night, just six weeks after he stepped down as the firm’s chief executive.
Apple marked his passing with a tribute on its website to a “visionary and creative genius” and “an amazing human being”.
“Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives,” Apple’s board said in a separate statement.
“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.”
Jobs will be remembered as one of the most transformational business leaders in recent times.
Renowned for his forensic approach to designing and building each product and his hard-ball approach to suppliers and developers, he was lauded for his genius in perfecting the best design and technology in its class.
From founding Apple in 1976, he saw the company go virtually bankrupt after he was forced out in a boardroom struggle in 1984. His return in 1996 was wildly transformative, leading to him launching an unprecedented string of market-changing products including the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
The unparalleled success guided Apple to the summit of the S&P 500 and saw Apple briefly pass Exxon Mobil to join an exclusive club of just ten firms to reach the top of the index, alongside the likes of Ford, General Electric and Microsoft.
Apple was not Jobs’ only contribution to the creative industries – he also founded digital animation studio Pixar, which had huge success with films such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo. After Disney bought Pixar in 2006, Jobs took a seat on its board.
He fought a long-running battle with pancreatic cancer, which forced him to take two leaves of absence from Apple’s day-to-day running before he stepped back to the chairman’s seat in August.
In his emotional letter of resignation, Jobs said he saw Apple’s “brightest and most innovative” days ahead.
US President Barack Obama expressed his condolences, thanking Jobs “for the work you make possible every day – including ours.”
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, said he would “miss Steve immensely”.
“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 honour,” Gates said.
Jobs’ family said last night: “In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family.
“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.”