The death of Apple’s CEO and co-founder cut a swath through Maine on Thursday, from tech fanatics to a wide segment of the public whose lives were affected by the iconic company’s user-friendly products.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc., died Wednesday at the age of 56.

An associate at Maine’s only Apple store, in South Portland, declined comment on his death, saying only that employees there were “pushing forward.”

C. David Tobie of DataColor, a global company that develops software for Apple’s desktop and mobile platforms, said Jobs’ death weighed on the minds of his associates all day Thursday.

“I have made several comments and read hundreds in the last 24 hours,” Tobie said. “There’s a depth of feeling, not just in the industry, but the population at large. It’s gone viral. It’s not just the geeks touched by Steve Jobs anymore, it’s the whole world.”

Invariably, he said, the comments were sent across vast spaces with iPods, iPads, iPhones, iMacs and other Apple computing products.

Tobie, who lives in Mount Vernon and has an office in Readfield, said there probably will never be anyone who did what Jobs did. “Which is not to say Apple won’t do well without his leadership, but we’ll miss that personal genius,” he said.

Carroll Ayer, an “Apple Ambassador” from Augusta who started the Capital Apple Macintosh Performa Users Group in 1993, said he never met Jobs but had the highest respect for him.

“I think he had an extraordinarily rare combination of intelligence, market vision and drive,” Ayer said. “And frankly, I think his accomplishments will rank up there with those of (inventor Thomas) Edison.”

Ayer, a retired state employee, said he spent Thursday reading quotes from Jobs through the years. Ayer said Apple showed “a great knack for building what people wanted, before they knew they wanted it,” under Jobs.

Apple’s reach in Maine is broad. Its products help educate more than 33,000 students and run critical functions for countless industries, especially in the fields of media, arts and design. Maine’s court system runs entirely on Apple platforms.

“We have been extraordinarily pleased with our Apples,” said Mary Ann Lynch, director of public information for the Maine Judicial Branch. “I’ve worked on PCs my entire life and just came to the court system three years ago. And now you couldn’t keep me away from Apple. It’s so far superior. We don’t have the viruses or are plagued by the problems PCs are plagued with.”

In a first-in-the-nation program begun in 2002 — the Maine Learning Technology Initiative — the state signed a $37 million contract with Apple that provided laptops to 33,000 middle school students and 3,000 teachers.

The contract was extended in 2006, then expanded in 2009 to include some high schools.

Today, all seventh-graders, all eighth-graders and students at 55 percent of Maine’s high schools are issued Apple laptops.

Former Gov. Angus King, who got Jobs interested in the laptop initiative, described him on Thursday as “the most important leader of his era,” saying his innovations rank with Edison’s and Henry Ford’s.

King said Apple didn’t make any money on the state program, which includes discounted laptops, wireless networking, support and mail-in repairs.

Jobs joined King in addressing students at Portland High School in June 2002 after the first Apple laptops arrived.

“Steve wanted to see this happen. It had always been a dream of his to see a digital device in everybody’s hands,” King said. “We were the first people to really step up and make that happen.”

Jobs said the Maine contract “was one that we decided we just couldn’t lose.”

Through the years, King kept in touch with Jobs, last corresponding with him about a decision by Auburn schools this year to equip kindergartners with iPads.

“Politicians come and go, but he actually changed the way people interact with the world, the way people see the world, the way people gain information from the world,” King said Thursday — via iPhone.

Associated Press Writer David Sharp and Morning Sentinel Staff Writers Beth Staples and Amy Calder contributed to this report.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Mechele Cooper can be contacted at 621-5663 or at: [email protected]