Apple co-founder and most visible figure Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer Wednesday at 56, a premature end for a man who revolutionized modern culture with inventions like the iPhone and the iPad. The impact of his death was palpable in Costa Rica, where Apple products have carved out a niche unlike anywhere else in Central America.
One of the country’s many Apple devotees, Alonso Castro, said he was in “total shock” Wednesday night.
Castro started a blog on iPhone news called iPhoneti.co. He began the blog in April, coinciding with the iPhone’s launch in Costa Rica. When the state-run telecom monopoly ICE debuted the phone, customers waited in lines that wrapped around the outside of ICE buildings where the phones were sold.
“Without a doubt, Apple is something important here,” Castro, 35, said. “When they announced they’d debut the iPhone it was major news. It was big news for weeks before it launched.”
The relatively strong economy and large technology sector compared to other Central American countries have made it possible for the cult of Apple to flourish here, Castro said. Alongside their traditional cup of coffee, Ticos surf the Web on their MacBook or talk on iPhones.
Official Apple Stores have not made it to Costa Rica, but authorized distributor iCon has locations throughout the Central Valley. The sixth and most recent iCon opened in downtown San José in July as Apple products continue to grow in popularity.
Costa Rican public figures eulogized Jobs. Rodrigo Arias, brother of former President Oscar Arias and a likely future presidential candidate, on his Facebook page called Jobs a “man who made his dreams come true, he persevered, he inspired.” Arias then posted a paragraph-long quote by Jobs about finding work that you love.
Former Health Minister María Ávila posted on her Twitter account: “A lamentable loss, the death of Steve Jobs, an icon of triumph, resilience and innovation.” Education Minister Leonardo Garnier asked for a moment of silence on his own account.
Apple turned its home page into a tribute to Jobs, posting a large black-and-white photo of the bearded high-tech maestro in his trademark black turtleneck and small round glasses. The only caption: “Steve Jobs, 1955-2011.”
“We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today,” the U.S. company said in a statement from its board of directors.
“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.”
Jobs’ family issued a statement saying he had died surrounded by his relatives. Jobs is survived by his wife, Laurene, with whom he had three children. He also had a daughter with a woman he dated prior to marrying.
Tim Cook – who had been handling Apple’s day-to-day operations since Jobs went on medical leave in January and was made CEO in August – praised the “creative genius” and “inspiring mentor.”
Microsoft founder Bill Gates and U.S. President Barack Obama also offered condolences.
The Silicon Valley legend was just 21 when he and Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer Inc. in the garage of Jobs’ family home in 1976. Under Jobs, the company introduced its first Apple computers and then the Macintosh, which became wildly popular in the 1980s. He was exiled from the company soon after, but reconciled in 1994. In the meantime, he built up the animation powerhouse Pixar.
Apple went from strength to strength as Jobs revamped the Macintosh line in the late ’90s. The business briefly surpassed Exxon Mobil to become the most valuable company in the world, revolutionizing modern culture and launching a “post-PC era” in which personal computers give way to smart mobile gadgets – the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Each of those products have reached Costa Rica, and all the latest Apple technology generates discussion here. On Castro’s blog, the announcement of the new iPhone 4S on Tuesday led to a lengthy discussion on the phone’s merits.
Jobs’ passing will raise doubts over whether the California-based company can continue its dominance in the hugely competitive technology sector.
“He was truly a visionary that recognized the power of technology,” Castro said. “We’re never going to be able to replace him.”
Apple fans were invited to share their thoughts, memories and condolences by sending messages to firstname.lastname@example.org.
AFP wire service contributed to this report.