Apple announced that Steve Jobs, one of its co-founders and the man most closely associated with its innovative products, died today at age 56. On its website, Apple says, "Steve Jobs, 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 as inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple."

Apple adds, "If you would like to share your thoughts, memories, and condolences, please email rememberingsteve@apple.com." Jobs stepped down from his duties as CEO in August, and said in a letter to the board of directors, "I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come." He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer since 2004. His Bloomberg News obituary was accidentally released a few years ago.

Techcrunch posted the statement from Apple's Board of Directors:

We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today.

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.

His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts.

The NY Times' obituary looks at his legacy and how Apple grew:

Rarely has a major company and industry been so dominated by a single individual, and so successful. His influence went far beyond the iconic personal computers that were Apple’s principal product for its first 20 years. In the last decade, Apple has redefined the music business through the iPod, the cellphone business through the iPhone and the entertainment and media world through the iPad. Again and again, Mr. Jobs gambled that he knew what the customer would want, and again and again he was right.

The early years of Apple long ago passed into legend: the two young hippie-ish founders, Mr. Jobs and Steve Wozniak; the introduction of the first Macintosh computer in 1984, which stretched the boundaries of what these devices could do; Mr. Jobs’s abrupt exit the next year in a power struggle. But it was his return to Apple in 1996 that started a winning streak that raised the company from the near dead to its current position. This summer, Apple briefly exceeded Exxon Mobil as the most valuable United States company.

The Twitter hashtag #ripstevejobs is trending with many sincere Tweets and many jokes. And here's Jobs' 2005 commencement speech at Stanford, "Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."