Apple co-founder, ex-CEO Steve Jobs has died

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CUPERTINO, CALIF. (AP) - Suddenly, the next version of the iPhone doesn’t seem so important. It’s time to mourn Steve Jobs, the Silicon Valley maestro who always seemed to hit the right note as he transformed Apple Inc. into technology’s greatest hits factory.

It didn’t take long for the people who loved their iPhones, IPods, iPads and Macs to begin gathering to pay their respects to the man who made it all happen.

Scott Robbins, a barber and Apple fan for nearly 20 years, came to Apple’s San Francisco store as soon as he heard about Jobs’ death Wednesday afternoon.

“To some people, this is like Elvis Presley or John Lennon _it’s a change in our times,” Robbins, 34, said. “It’s the end of an era, of what we’ve known Apple to be. It’s like the end of the innovators.”

The world also lost a showman, whose flair for the dramatic _ there was always “one more thing” _he was as keen as his knack for divining what people wanted before they even seemed to realize it themselves.

Apple announced his death without giving a specific cause. He died peacefully, according to a statement from family members who said they were present. He was 56.

“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 statement. “The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.”

Jobs had battled cancer in 2004 and underwent a liver transplant in 2009 after taking a leave of absence for unspecified health problems. He took another leave of absence in January _ his third since his health problems began _ and resigned in August. Jobs became Apple’s chairman and handed the CEO job over to his hand-picked successor, Tim Cook.

Outside Apple’s Cupertino headquarters, three flags _ an American flag, a California state flag and an Apple flag _ were flying at half-staff late Wednesday.

“Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor.” Cook wrote in an email to Apple’s employees. “Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”

The news Apple fans and shareholders had been dreading came the day after Apple unveiled its latest iPhone, a device that got a lukewarm reception. Perhaps, there would have been more excitement had Jobs been well enough to show it off with his trademark theatrics.

Jobs started Apple with a high school friend in a Silicon Valley garage in 1976, was forced out a decade later and returned in 1997 to rescue the company. During his second stint, it grew into the most valuable technology company in the world with a market value of $351 billion. Almost all that wealth has been created since Jobs’ return.

Cultivating Apple’s countercultural sensibility and a minimalist design ethic, Jobs rolled out one sensational product after another, even in the face of the late-2000s recession and his own failing health.

He helped change computers from a geeky hobbyist’s obsession to a necessity of modern life at work and home, and in the process he upended not just personal technology but the cellphone and music industries.

For transformation of American industry, he has few rivals He has long been linked to his personal computer-age contemporary, Bill Gates, and has drawn comparisons to other creative geniuses such as Walt Disney. Jobs died as Walt Disney Co.’s largest shareholder, a by-product of his decision to sell computer animation studio Pixar in 2006.

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