CUPERTINO, Calif. --Apple Inc. said the company's co-founder Steve Jobs died Wednesday. He was 56.

We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today, the company's board of directors said in a brief statement. 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.

The cause of death was not announced. Jobs battled a rare form of liver cancer in 2004, and received a liver transplant in 2009. He spent most of 2011 on medical leave before stepping down from his job as CEO on Aug. 24, citing ongoing health problems.

On the homepage, the company posted a large photo of Jobs with the simple text, Steve Jobs, 1955 - 2011.

On another web page, the company posted a short statement: 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 also encouraged fans to share thoughts and memories of Jobs via this email address:

Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the co-founders of Microsoft and longtime rivals of Jobs and the company he built, both issued statements late Wednesday.

Gates said, 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.

Paul Allen took to Twitter to note Jobs's passing: My condolences to Steve Jobs family and friends. We ve lost a unique tech pioneer and auteur who knew how to make amazingly great products.

John Cook of Seattle-based GeekWire said Jobs was truly an icon and really repositioned Apple to become a dominant force in the tech industry building it into the most valuable technology company in the world. I think a lot of people in the tech industry are shocked right's rather sudden news.

Jobs, who returned to the company as CEOin 1997 after a 12-year absence, made Apple into the world's leading consumer electronics and entertainment company. The iconic iPod, iPad, iPhone and Macintosh product lines transformed how people consume media.

Read the Associated Press obituary of Jobs.

Timeline of Steve Jobs's life:

  • 1955: Stephen Paul Jobs is born on Feb. 24.
  • 1972: Jobs enrolls at Reed College in Portland, Ore., but drops out after a semester.
  • 1974: Jobs works for video game maker Atari and attends meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club with Steve Wozniak, a high school friend who was a few years older.
  • 1975: Jobs and Woz attend Homebrew Computer Club meetings.
  • 1976: Apple Computer is formed on April Fool's Day, shortly after Wozniak and Jobs create a new computer circuit board in a Silicon Valley garage. A third co-founder, Ron Wayne, leaves the company after less than two weeks. The Apple I computer goes on sale by the summer for $666.66.
  • 1977: Apple is incorporated by its founders and a group of venture capitalists. It unveils Apple II, the first personal computer to generate color graphics. Revenue reaches $1 million.
  • 1978: Jobs' daughter Lisa is born to girlfriend Chrisann Brennan.
  • 1979: Jobs visits Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, or PARC, and is inspired by a computer with a graphical user interface.
  • 1980: Apple goes public, raising $110 million in one of the biggest initial public offerings to date.
  • 1982: Annual revenue climbs to $1 billion.
  • 1983: The Lisa computer goes on sale with much fanfare, only to be pulled two years later. Jobs lures John Sculley away from Pepsico Inc. to serve as Apple's CEO.
  • 1984: Iconic 1984 Macintosh commercial directed by Ridley Scott airs during the Super Bowl. The Macintosh computer goes on sale.
  • 1985: Jobs and Sculley clash, leading to Jobs' resignation. Wozniak also resigns from Apple this year.
  • 1986: Jobs starts Next Inc., a new computer company making high-end machines for universities. He also buys Pixar from Star Wars creator George Lucas for $10 million.
  • 1989: First NeXT computer goes on sale with a $6,500 price tag.
  • 1991: Apple and IBM Corp. announce an alliance to develop new PC microprocessors and software. Apple unveils portable Macs called PowerBook.
  • 1993: Apple introduces the Newton, a hand-held, pen-based computer. The company reports quarterly loss of $188 million in July. Sculley is replaced as CEO by Apple president Michael Spindler. Apple restructures, and Sculley resigns as chairman. At Next, Jobs decides to focus on software instead of whole computers.
  • 1994: Apple introduces Power Macintosh computers based on the PowerPC chip it developed with IBM and Motorola. Apple decides to license its operating software and allow other companies to clone the Mac, adopting the model championed by Microsoft Corp.
  • 1995: The first Mac clones go on sale. Microsoft releases Windows 95, which is easier to use than previous versions and is more like the Mac system. Apple struggles with competition, parts shortages and mistakes predicting customer demand. Pixar's Toy Story, the first commercial computer-animated feature, hits theaters. Pixar goes to Wall Street with an IPO that raises $140 million.
  • 1996: Apple announces plans to buy Next for $430 million for the operating system Jobs' team developed. Jobs is appointed an adviser to Apple. Gil Amelio replaces Spindler as CEO.
  • 1997: Jobs becomes interim CEO after Amelio is pushed out. He foreshadows the marketing hook for a new product line by calling himself iCEO. Jobs puts an end to Mac clones.
  • 1998: Apple returns to profitability. It shakes up personal computer industry in 1998 with the candy-colored, all-in-one iMac desktop, the original models shaped like a futuristic TV. Apple discontinues the Newton.
  • 2000: Apple removes interim label from Jobs' CEO title.
  • 2001: The first iPod goes on sale, as do computers with OS X, the modern Mac operating system based on Next software. Apple also releases iTunes software.
  • 2003: Apple launches the iTunes Music Store with 200,000 songs at 99 cents each, giving people a convenient way to buy music legally online. It sells 1 million songs in the first week.
  • 2004: Jobs undergoes surgery for a rare but curable form of pancreatic cancer. Apple discloses his illness after the fact.
  • 2005: Apple expands the iPod line with the tiny Nano and an iPod that can play video. The company also announces that future Macs will use Intel chips.
  • 2006: Disney buys Pixar for $7.4 billion. Jobs becomes Disney's largest individual shareholder, and much of his wealth is derived from this sale.
  • 2007: Apple releases its first smartphone, the iPhone. Crowds camp overnight at stores to be one of the first to own the new device.
  • 2008: Speculation mounts that Jobs is ill, given weight loss. In September he kicks off an Apple event and says, The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated, making a play off a famous Mark Twain quote after Bloomberg News accidentally publishes, then retracts, an obituary that it had prepared in advance.
  • 2009: Jobs explains severe weight loss by saying he has a treatable hormone imbalance and that he will continue to run Apple. Days later he backtracks and announces he will be on medical leave. He returns to work in June. Later it is learned that he received a liver transplant.
  • 2010: Apple sells 15 million of its newest gadget, the iPad, in nine months, giving rise to a new category of modern touch-screen tablet computers.
  • Jan. 17, 2011: In a memo to Apple employees, Jobs announces a second medical leave with no set duration. Cook again steps in to run day-to-day operations. Jobs retains CEO title and remains involved in major decisions.
  • Aug. 24, 2011: Apple announces that Jobs is resigning as CEO. Cook takes the CEO title, and Apple names Jobs chairman.
  • Oct. 5, 2011: Jobs dies at 56. Apple announces his death without giving a specific cause.
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