Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ long struggle with cancer ended yesterday when the company announced news of his death.
A friend of the family said Jobs died of complications from pancreatic cancer, a disease he struggled with mightily and publicly.
Jobs underwent surgery for the disease in 2004, received a liver transplant in 2009 and took three medical leaves of absence as Apple’s chief executive before stepping down from the top post in August, saying he could “no longer meet my duties,” and turning the reins over to Tim Cook.
Through it all, Jobs continued to introduce new products in his trademark black turtleneck and blue jeans, although the toll of his health struggle was visible in his gaunt frame.
Jobs’ most recent medical leave from Apple began this past January, but despite his health issues, he reportedly remained involved in decision-making at the company and continued to make special appearances.
In February, Jobs was present at a meeting with President Obama and other industry leaders. A month later, the visionary took the stage at Apple’s iPad 2 lively product launch, and gave the keynote address at June’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference before an eager crowd at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center, who gave him a standing ovation.
Jobs was initially diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003, initially treating the illness by switching to a special diet to avoid surgery. Apple kept Jobs’ illness under wraps, not disclosing his cancer until August 2004, when the then 49-year-old announced surgery had successfully removed a tumor.
But Jobs’ thin and frail appearance at the 2008 iPhone launch sparked concerns of a recurrence. Throughout the year, he was beset with speculation concerning his health, which was often prompted by his public appearances. The executive continually asserted his health issues were a private matter, and said he was cancer-free, even joking at an iPod event in September, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
However, in January 2009, the CEO took on a six-month medical leave, saying his health issues were “more complex” than initially believed. This was followed by reports that Jobs underwent a liver transplant at a Tennessee hospital in 2009, a procedure that leaves an average of five years’ survival for about 50 percent of its patients, according to doctors.
Jobs’ health has had an unusually direct impact on Apple. The company is so closely identified with Jobs’ vision and force of personality, and news of his medical battles often caused its stock to fluctuate, reflecting investors’ nervousness.
Tim Cook’s leadership was under the microscope the day before Jobs’ passing, when he took the stage as the new face of the company at its iPhone 4s launch. The new leader’s skills will continue to be closely examined now that the company, and the world, lost a key visionary, whose artist’s touch and overall aesthetic sense remained constant through a series of health crises and will be hard to duplicate.