Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and one of the biggest names in technology has died. He was 56.

The CEO had been struggling with his health for the past several years. In 2004 he underwent surgery to treat a rare form of pancreatic cancer and had a liver transplant in 2009.

Jobs won renown by making Apple synonymous with user-friendly design and pioneering consumer electronics. Under his leadership, the company revolutionized and virtually took over the market for music players and online music distribution with the iPod and iTunes. More recently, Apple disrupted the mobile computing business with its iconic iPad tablet. Throughout, Jobs was known for a hands-on management style and obsessive attention to the details of product design and marketing.

Jobs's vision was said to be strongly influenced by Japanese consumer electronics maker Sony, whose attention to product design and factory organization impressed him when he visited the company in the 1980s. The clean simplicity of Japanese design were reflected in his trademark black mock turtleneck, jeans and sneakers, and added to his image as an ascetic purist He rarely varied from that uniform, whether on the stage or out grabbing coffee.

While the past decade may have been the most fruitful for Jobs and the company he founded, he was exiled from Apple for more than a decade after losing a boardroom battle in the mid-80s.

Jobs founded Apple with friend Steve Wozniak in 1976, but he left the company in 1986 when he was unable to oust the CEO who had been brought in to help the company grow. Just over a decade later he returned to the company and then was named CEO in 1997. Jobs took Apple into the music business with the iPod in 2001 and the iTunes Music Store two years later.

During his time away from the company he loved, Jobs founded Next Computer, which was only moderately successful but planted the seeds for future Apple hardware and software when it was acquired by Apple at the time of his return. He also bought Pixar, which went on to become an extremely successful producer of animated films.

By 2006 Jobs was noticeably thinner and after his 2008 Macworld keynote, Apple was forced to react saying that Jobs was suffering from a common bug and taking antibiotics for it.

In January 2009 Jobs said in a letter that a hormone imbalance had been causing his noticeable weight loss. Shortly after he said he would be taking a six-month leave of absence from Apple to deal with his worsening medical condition.

He came back to work in late June and a year and a half later took another leave of absence in January 2011 and didn't say how long he'd be away.

Steve Jobs leaves behind a wife and four children.

Nick Barber, IDG News Service.