Late Wednesday afternoon, Apple (AAPL) switched its Internet home page, normally decked out with its iconic products, to a single image: A full-page portrait of Steve Jobs, tugging his beard and staring intently into the camera with the hint of an impish smile.

The man who taught Silicon Valley that its future was limitless was gone. Almost immediately, condolences and praise flowed in -- from President Barack Obama and the valley business titans Jobs had inspired, to the thousands of people who posted hugs and tears in 140 characters on Twitter and the children who placed flowers before a small orchard in front of Jobs' Palo Alto home.

Apple announced the death of Jobs, who had been suffering from a recurrence of pancreatic cancer, just after 4:30 p.m. Wednesday with a somber statement to the media. Jobs, who had stepped down as CEO in August as his health declined, died peacefully earlier Wednesday at his home, surrounded by his family.

"Apple has lost a visionary and creative leader, and the world has lost an amazing human being," said the company, which is asking people to email their memories and condolences to rememberingsteve@apple.com. "Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple."

Obama tweeted, "Rest in peace, Steve Jobs. From all of us at #Obama2012, thank you for the work you make possible every day -- including ours."


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Google (GOOG) also changed its home page, with its characteristic minimalism: "Steve Jobs, 1955-2011" -- a link that led back to Apple's website.

Jobs' legacy will always revolve around Apple and Pixar, the studio that created a string of animated Hollywood hits such as the "Toy Story" movies, and the transformational products they created. But he also had a direct and personal impact on the lives and careers of other tech visionaries -- from 27-year- old Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, to Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who once hoped to hire him as Google's CEO.

When Zuckerberg recently introduced a new Facebook feature called Timeline, a feature the CEO called "the story of your life," his home page had a photo of Jobs, whom Zuckerberg has grown close to in recent years.

"Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend," Zuckerberg said on his Facebook page Wednesday. "Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you."

Page said that despite Jobs' poor health, the Apple leader reached out to offer his help when Page became Google's CEO in April.

"He always seemed to be able to say in very few words what you actually should have been thinking before you thought it," Page wrote in a posting on Google+. "He was very kind to reach out to me as I became CEO of Google and spend time offering his advice and knowledge even though he was not at all well."

Flowers lay beside condolences written on the sidewalk in front Steve Jobs’ Palo Alto home on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011
Flowers lay beside condolences written on the sidewalk in front Steve Jobs' Palo Alto home on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011. (Kirstina Sangsahachart / Bay Area News Group)

And the man who once may have been Jobs' fiercest competitor and who later became a friend, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, wrote in a blog post about memories going back nearly 30 years.

"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 wrote. "I will miss Steve immensely."

Jobs was simply, writer-director Albert Brooks wrote on Twitter, "our Edison."

Apple CEO Tim Cook informed Apple employees of Jobs' death in an email late Wednesday afternoon, saying the company would soon hold a memorial service for employees.

"No words can adequately express our sadness at Steve's death or our gratitude for the opportunity to work with him," Cook told Apple's employees. "We will honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much."

Jobs may have provided his own best eulogy in the commencement address he gave at Stanford in 2005, when he spoke emotionally about quitting school, getting fired from Apple, and being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at 49.

For many graduates that day, like J.T. Batson of Augusta, Ga., now the president of Donovan Data Systems, Jobs' words that afternoon still resonate.

"What hit home for me was his message to wake up every morning and look yourself in the mirror -- and if you're not excited about that day, you need to change what you're doing," Batson said. "And that death is a great motivator, so we all need to take full advantage of our time. Lastly, his advice to 'stay hungry, stay foolish.' I now tell that story to people who work for me."

Staff writers Lisa M. Krieger, Karen De Sa and Troy Wolverton contributed to this report. Contact Mike Swift at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/swiftstories and view his Google+ profile.

Words
of Praise

Colleagues and admirers from the tech world and beyond remembered Steve Jobs: