"Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being," the Cupertino, Calif., maker of computers, software and communications devices said in announcing Jobs' death. "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 the company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple."
The announcement did not mention cause of death or say where Jobs, who had a history of cancer and other health problems, was when he died. Jobs had resigned as chief executive officer in August.
In a statement, Jobs' family said he "died peacefully today surrounded by his family," The Wall Street Journal reported.
Apple's board of directors released a statement Wednesday saying Jobs' "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."
Bill Gates, the co-founder and former chief executive of Microsoft Corp., said in a statement he was "truly saddened" by Jobs' death, The New York Times reported.
"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. "For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it's been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely."
President Barack Obama said "the world has lost a visionary."
"Steve was among the greatest of American innovators -- brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world and talented enough to do it," the president said in a statement issued by the White House.
"By building one of the planet's most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity," Obama said. "By making computers personal and putting the Internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he 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."
Jobs, who grew up in California's Silicon Valley, co-founded Apple in 1976 with Steve Wozniak, was also a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios.
Apple introduced a line of products -- including the Mac computer, iPhone and App Store, iPod media players and the iTunes media store -- that featured prominently in the growth of mobile media and computing devices in what has come to be called the Information Age.
Pixar produced a long run of blockbuster animated features including the "Toy Story" trilogy, "A Bug's Life," "Monsters, Inc.," "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles," "Cars," "Wall-e," "Ratatouille" and "Up." The studio merged with The Walt Disney Co. in 2006.
Born Feb. 24, 1955, Jobs was adopted by Paul Jobs, a machinist, and Clara Jobs, an accountant, a biography posted at theapplemuseum.com said.
He graduated from Homestead High School in Los Altos, Calif., in 1972 and then attended Reed College in Portland, Ore., for one semester before leaving school to go to work for Atari.
In 1991, he married Laurene Powell, whom he had met at Stanford University where he was speaking to a class. The couple had three children, and Jobs also had a daughter, Lisa, from a previous relationship.
Jobs resigned as CEO Aug. 24, telling the Apple board he could "no longer meet my duties and expectations."
In the letter, Jobs said he would have liked to have continued as "chairman of the board, director and Apple employee."
"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," he wrote.
"Unfortunately, that day has come."
Jobs denied in July the company was actively taking steps to replace him. After the Journal reported Apple was seeking to create a short-list of successors to replace Jobs, he called the report "hogwash," InformationWeek reported.
Speculation about replacing Jobs had focused on his health, which has been a closely guarded topic at Apple, but includes his bout with pancreatic cancer, which was announced in 2004, and his liver transplant, which became known in 2009, despite the company's efforts to keep that under wraps.
Jobs went on medical leave again this year.
The board said at the time of Jobs' August announcement it had named Tim Cook to succeed Jobs, and that Cook would join the board.