Apple's (AAPL) iconic founder and former CEO Steve Jobs died Wednesday, after a lengthy history of medical illnesses that included a rare form of pancreatic cancer. He was 56 years old.
Apple, which announced his death, did not state the specific reason for his passing. But in an email to employees, Apple's new CEO, Tim Cook, said:
Jobs' family issued the following statement:
I have some very sad news to share with all of you. Steve passed away earlier today.
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.
We are planning a celebration of Steve's extraordinary life for Apple employees that will take place soon. If you would like to share your thoughts, memories and condolences in the interim, you can simply email firstname.lastname@example.org.
No words can adequately express our sadness at Steve's death or our gratitude for the opportunity to work with him. We will honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much.
Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family.
In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family. We are thankful to the many people who have shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve's illness; a website will be provided for those who wish to offer tributes and memories.
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.
Jobs' death ends four decades of his innovation at Apple and spans the birth of the Macintosh computer in the 1980s to the iPad tablet computer in 2010, forming the latest addition to the iPod-iPhone legacy.
Over the past seven years, Jobs faced troubling health issues that began with a treatment of a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2004. That was followed by severe weight loss in 2008 and a liver transplant in 2009. By mid-January, Jobs' health once again took center stage as the gaunt and frail man took his third medical leave. But unlike his previous two medical leaves, Jobs did not offer a timeframe of when he expected to be back to work full-time, nor did he elaborate on his medical condition.
Jobs' influence on Apple's vision and innovation has loomed larger than most other CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. During the 13 years that Jobs ran Apple after his return in 1997, the creative yet demanding CEO turned around the comatose computer company that was bathing in red ink and suffering from a pulverized stock price in the lowly teens.
He managed not only to awake Apple into consciousness, but also to outsmart asleep-at-the-wheel computer rivals by introducing colorful body cases to iMacs, as well as take on new competitors by stepping into new markets like music players with the iPod and smartphones with the iPhone. Apple's latest frontier, the iPad tablet computer, is once again forcing competitors to follow its lead.
For Jobs, his vision extended beyond just the devices' hardware. Jobs saw software as a way to differentiate Apple from establishing a proprietary operating system to creating an iTunes Store to sell downloads of music, movies, and games. Later building on that momentum, Apple launched the App Store, particularly extending the capabilities of its iPhone and now the iPad and creating an ecosystem of outside developers around its devices.
But one misstep in Jobs' legacy was a failure to respond with greater speed to the threat of Google's (GOOG) mobile operating system, Android. Apple struck a deal with AT&T (T) to serve as the exclusive U.S. carrier of the iPhone, dating back to the launch of the device. Customers could purchase an iPhone only through Apple or AT&T. But along comes Android, which is used by a number of smartphone makers and offered by a number of carriers. Android smartphones, as a result, have gained a larger market share than Apple's iPhone.
Apple, in an effort to combat Android's omnipresence, expanded its iPhone offerings to Verizon Wireless, a joint-venture of Verizon Communications (VZ) and Vodafone Group (VOD), in February and this week announced this week plans to let Sprint Nextel (S) carry its iPhone 4S.
As Apple moves forward without Jobs, investors may be asking themselves whether they'll ever hear again a sign of innovation echoed in the words: "just one more thing."
Motley Fool contributor Dawn Kawamoto does not own any shares in the companies listed. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, AT&T, Vodafone Group and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple.