World mourns passing of Apple visionary Jobs

Andreas Raptopoulos, of Palo Alto, looks upon the flowers, candles and apples which adorn the sidewalk outside the home of Steve Jobs in Palo Alto, California.—Reuters

Millions of people paid emotional tribute on Thursday to the late Steve Jobs, praising the Apple founder’s vision and creative genius which has left behind a world transformed by his legacy.

Outside his two-story brick home in Palo Alto, California, grim-faced people stood in the rain beside a growing shrine adorned with bouquets, heartfelt messages and a pile of apples with a bite taken out in tribute to Apple’s logo.

The towering high-tech pioneer, who co-founded the company and went on to invent iconic gadgets such as iPods, iPhones and iPads, died Wednesday at the age of 56 after a long battle with cancer.

“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,” Apple’s board of directors said.

Tributes flowed in from world leaders and tech giants, while Apple fans flooded social networking sites to voice their sorrow at the passing of the man who helped put phone-sized computers in millions of pockets.

Perhaps the most poignant tribute to Apple’s co-founder was that word of his death spread almost instantly to all corners of the earth on the very devices he had invented.

At one point, Twitter seized up under the weight of Jobs-related posts, and analysts have predicted the news will break traffic records.

Web users in China, where diehard fans queue for days to get their hands on Apple’s latest products, posted nearly 35 million online tributes.

Fans flocked to Apple stores around the world to leave mementos — from the typical flowers, candles and cards to the company’s own products to more apples with bites taken out of them.

“I’m here to pay tribute to Steve Jobs, someone in the universe who made it possible for me to be an engineer,” Clarence Labor, who works for high-tech firm Intel, told AFP outside a store in Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood.

As he spoke, another man placed a silver iPod on which he had written “Thank You, RIP” outside the shop.

Jobs was just 21 when he founded Apple Computer in 1976 with his 26-year-old friend Steve Wozniak in his family garage.

From such humble beginnings the company grew into one of the world’s most valuable firms, posting second-quarter profits of $731 billion in July on revenue of $28.57 billion despite the worldwide economic turmoil.

Apple shares seesawed on the news of his death, eventually closing Thursday at $377.37, down 0.23 percent from the day before.

Wozniak said the two men had had little idea what a revolution they were spawning all those decades ago.

“We felt it was unbelievably important, but we never could have envisioned it would grow to what it is today, that it would be such an important part of everyone’s life in so many ways,” he told CNN late Wednesday.

US President Barack Obama said Jobs had “transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.”

Microsoft boss Bill Gates and other titans of the high-tech industry, some of whom had competed with Jobs for decades, agreed.

“The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come,” Gates said in a statement.

The two men were rivals in the race to dominate the market at the start of the personal computer era.

But while PCs powered by Microsoft software ruled work places, Jobs envisioned people-friendly machines with mouse controllers and icons to click on to activate programs or open files.

Huge questions now hang over the future of Apple, with the spotlight on Tim Cook, who was made chief executive of the Cupertino, California-based company in August after Jobs’s resignation.

Just a day before Jobs died, Cook had presided over the launch of the new iPhone 4S in a move that failed to dazzle investors.

Born on February 24, 1955 in San Francisco to a single mother and adopted by a couple in nearby Mountain View at barely a week old, Jobs grew up among the orchards that would one day become the technology hub known as Silicon Valley.

Under Jobs, Apple introduced its first computers and then the Macintosh, which became wildly popular in the 1980s. But he left Apple in 1985 after an internal power struggle and started NeXT Computer company, aimed at businesses.

He then co-founded Pixar animated studios in 1986 from a former computer graphics unit he bought from movie industry titan George Lucas. The studio has since produced acclaimed films like “Toy Story.”

Jobs reconciled with Apple in 1996 with the company buying NeXT for $429 million and Jobs ascending once again to the Apple throne.

Jobs revamped the Macintosh line, launching a “post-PC era” in which personal computers give way to smart mobile gadgets — the iPod, iPhone and iPad, as well as the popular iTunes website.

Publisher Simon & Schuster announced Thursday that it was pushing forward the release date of the first authorized biography of Jobs by nearly a month to October 24.

Pre-orders boomed on online retail giant Amazon, where the book has topped the best-seller list.