Apple visionary, co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs has passed away at the age of 56.  The company which Jobs helped start and eventually resurrect into one of the most powerful in the world issued the following statement:

"Apple has lost a visionary and a 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."

Jobs family issued the following statement.

"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, who battled pancreatic cancer, had stepped down as CEO of Apple on Aug. 25 saying in a release that he  "could no longer meet my duties and expectations" of the position. He remained the Chairman of the Board.  Tim Cook was named CEO in his place.

One of the founders of Apple in 1976, Jobs left the company in 1985.  After middling success with another computer entity, NEXT, Jobs returned to a floundering Apple in 1996 as interim CEO.  By 2000 he dropped the "interim" title as he helped shepherd one of the biggest turnaround in the history of American business. Under Jobs' second tenure, Apple revolutionized the music business with the iPod and itunes store, cellphones with the iPhone and the touchpad with the iPad.  Over the past 12 months, Apple has gone back and forth with ExxonMobil as the world's biggest company surpassing even Microsoft which was co-founded by Jobs' longtime rival Bill Gates.  Just yesterday, the company announced iPhone 4S, a new version of it's popular device with voice activated commands.

Jobs is also responsible for spearheading the creative development of Pixar animation studios which he acquired in 1986.  After mammoth creative and commercial success under the direction of John Lasseter, Disney acquired Pixar for $7.4 billion in an all-stock transaction.  Jobs became the largest single Disney shareholder with 7% of the company and a seat on the company's board of directors.  Jobs also held a seat on a special steering committee at Disney.

Pixar CEO John Lasseter and president Ed Catmull released a joint statement, crediting Jobs for being the prime orchestrator of the storied animation studio's enormous success:

"Steve Jobs was an extraordinary visionary, our very dear friend and the guiding light of the Pixar family. He saw the  potential of what Pixar could be before the rest of us, and beyond what anyone ever imagined. Steve took a chance on us and believed in our crazy dream of making computer animated films; the one thing he always said was to simply 'make it great.' He is why Pixar turned out the way we did and his strength, integrity and love of life has made us all better people. He will forever be a part of Pixar’s DNA. Our hearts go out to his wife Laurene and their children during this incredibly difficult time."

Disney President and CEO Bob Iger, who famously repaired the relationship between Jobs and the company leading to Pixar's acquisition, released the following statement.

"Steve Jobs was a great friend as well as a trusted advisor.  His legacy will extend far beyond the products he created or the businesses he built. It will be the millions of people he inspired, the lives he changed, and the culture he defined. Steve was such an 'original,' with a thoroughly creative, imaginative mind that defined an era. Despite all he accomplished, it feels like he was just getting started.   With his passing the world has lost a rare original, Disney has lost a member of our family, and I have lost a great friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Laurene and his children during this difficult time."

In a statement to AllThingsD, longtime rival and friend, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said:

"I’m truly saddened to learn of Steve Jobs’ death. Melinda and I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to everyone Steve has touched through his work.

Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives.

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.

For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely."

For further reading, you can also check out Kristopher Tapley's piece on how Jobs changed the film industry.