Apple Inc co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs, counted among the greatest American CEOs of his generation, died on Wednesday at the age of 56, after a years-long and highly public battle with cancer and other health issues.

Jobs' death was announced by Apple in a statement late on Wednesday.

The Silicon Valley icon who gave the world the iPod and the iPhone resigned as CEO of the world's largest technology corporation in August, handing the reins to current chief executive Tim Cook.

Jobs, who fought a rare form of pancreatic cancer, was deemed the heart and soul of a company that rivals Exxon Mobil as the most valuable in America.

Jobs' resignation as CEO of Apple Inc in late August, saying he could no longer fulfill his duties, raised fears his health had deteriorated further.

"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. Unfortunately, that day has come," Jobs had said in a brief letter announcing his resignation.

"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 said in a statement announcing Jobs' passing.

"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."

Bidding farewell

According to Time Magazine, Jobs' family said in a statement that they are thankful to the many people who shared their wishes and prayers during the final year of Jobs' illness, and promised to provide a website for those who wish to offer tributes and memories of the creative visionary.

"Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family," began the statement. "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," the statement said.

U.S. President Barack Obama praised Jobs for his bravery and talent in a statement following the announcement of his passing.

"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," said Obama.

"The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented."

Microsoft Corp co-founder and chairman Bill Gates bid farewell to his long-time friend and competitor, using Jobs' own words in his tribute.

"For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it's been an insanely great honor," Gates said in an e-mailed statement. "I will miss Steve immensely."

"Insanely great" was of one of Jobs' favorite expressions.

"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.

Gates, 55, and Jobs, 56, were twin figureheads in the early development of personal computers in the 1970s and 1980s. They became friends and fierce competitors.

"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," said Gates. "I'm truly saddened to learn of (his) death," he said.

Following Jobs' passing, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg changed his Facebook status to "Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you."

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the news of Steve Jobs' death to Apple employees via e-mail, according to CNN.

"Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being," he wrote. "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."

"We are planning a celebration of Steve’s extraordinary life for Apple employees that will take place soon. If you would like to share your thoughts, memories and condolences in the interim, you can simply e-mail rememberingsteve@apple.com."