Steve Jobs Dead at 56 – World Loses Leading Technology Innovator

Apple co-founder, former CEO and visionary Steve Jobs has died at the age of 56.

"We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today," a statement released by Apple Inc. said Wednesday. "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."

Jobs' family released a separate statement that said Steve "died peacefully today surrounded by his family ... We know many of you will mourn with us, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief."

Over the past three decades, Jobs battled Microsoft's Bill Gates in the war for Silicon Valley supremacy.

Jobs helped to create much of today's leading technology, with innovative ideas that eventually helped Microsoft get started by taking Apple's simple formulas and building on them for their own computers.

However, it wasn't until later in life when Jobs really hit his stride with gadgets like the iPod, iPhone, iPad and iTunes. These items would forever change the way PCs and pocket devices impact the world.

Jobs took pride in Apple for the way it was able to create things that were at "the intersection of art and technology," he frequently said when asked to describe his company.

Because of this relentless work ethic and his pursuit of excellence, Apple became the richest company in the world.

In 2009, Jobs took a leave of absence for six months, during which time he received a liver transplant. In mid-January he again took a medical leave without any explanation, and eventually stepped down as CEO of the company in August, due to his battle with pancreatic cancer.

Mostly known for his role in reshaping the computer industry, some of Jobs’ biggest contributions came in entertainment as he turned Apple into a central company for the music industry.

He was also a major contributor and financier and CEO of Pixar Animation Studios – later selling it to Walt Disney Co.

Jobs left Apple in the late ’80s, but after an 11-year absence and Apple losing $2 billion a year, he returned to the company where he would create the iMac and become the visionary behind all of the "i" products.

When Jobs stepped down in August, his long time deputy, Tim Cook became the new CEO.

This devastating news for Apple comes a day after a big Apple technology conference where info on the new iPhone 4S and iOS 5 was released.

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose," Jobs said in a commencement speech at Stanford University in June 2005.

Jobs is survived by his wife, Laurene, and four children.