Steve Jobs, a co-founder of Apple Inc., who introduced simple, well-designed computers for people who were more interested in what technology could do than in how it was done, died Wednesday at age 56.
In a brief statement, Apple announced the death but did not say where he died. Mr. Jobs, who suffered from a rare form of pancreatic cancer and had a liver transplant in 2009, stepped down as Apple’s chief executive on Aug. 24.
An original thinker who helped create the Macintosh, one of the world’s most influential computers, Mr. Jobs also reinvented the portable music player with the iPod, launched the first successful legal method of selling music online with iTunes and reordered the cellphone market with the iPhone. The introduction of the iPad also jump-started the electronic-tablet market, and it now dominates the field.
Calculating that people would be willing to pay a premium price for products that signaled creativity, Mr. Jobs had a genius for understanding the needs of consumers before they did.
He knew best of all how to market: “Mac or PC?” became one of the defining questions of the late 20th century, and although Apple sold a mere 5 percent of all computers during that era, Mac users became rabid partisans.
Mr. Jobs was the first crossover technology star, turning Silicon Valley renown into Main Street recognition and paving the way for the rise of the nerds, such as Yahoo founders Jerry Yang and David Filo, and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
And by changing the way people interacted with technology, Jobs and Microsoft founder Bill Gates transformed their era in much the same way Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller revolutionized theirs with the mass-produced automobile and the creation of Standard Oil.
As a 21-year-old college dropout in 1976, Mr. Jobs founded Apple with his friend Steve Wozniak. He led the company to multimillion-dollar success within five years but was forced out by the time he was 30.
Mr. Jobs started another computer firm, Next, whose technology was used to create the World Wide Web. He later took over a foundering computer animation company and turned it into the Academy Award-winning Pixar, maker of “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo.”
Returning to Apple in his 40s, Mr. Jobs restored the company to profitability by paring down the product line and being a leader in innovation.
Known for his complex and combative temperament, Mr. Jobs was a private man. But in a June 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, he talked openly about his pancreatic cancer, diagnosed in 2004, in a video that became an Internet sensation. He later became furious about speculation over his health in mid-2008, when he appeared in public looking gaunt. Later that year, he took a leave of absence from the company to have a liver transplant.
In January, he took another medical leave. On Aug. 24 he stepped down as Apple’s chief executive, becoming chairman of the board. Apple’s share price immediately dropped 5 percent on the news, but it rebounded the next day. “Steve Jobs running the company from jail would be better for the stock price than Steve Jobs not being CEO,” one stock analyst told Fortune magazine in early 2011.