1. Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, Sergey Brin,
Governing Tribunal, Google
Major Impact: Google towers over the internet era. It controls 64 percent of Web searches, and search is most people's gateway to what they want to do on the Net. Google owns 57 percent of the market for placing ads on websites. The company operates three dozen massive data centers around the world-giving it, by some estimates, more computing power than any single entity on earth. As if that weren't enough, Google keeps using its brand, power, and $15.8 billion in cash to stomp like colonialists into other companies' businesses. Its Android cell-phone operating system encroaches on Apple's and BlackBerry's territory. This year, Google is expected to try to grab market share from Microsoft's Internet Explorer with its Chrome browser and invest heavily in alternative-energy businesses. Wherever Google aims its guns, industries go on red alert.
Unusually, Google is run not by one person but three. Schmidt is officially CEO, and Page and Brin are the co-founders. But they confer with one another on almost everything, so we could not separate them.
Achilles' Heel: Google's very reliance on search. Someday, a new invention will make search less important, just as the Web has made Microsoft's PC operating systems less important, sapping Microsoft's power.
Eccentric Project: They're everywhere at Google. One employee wrote code so that people can search in pirate language. Another created a hidden joke: Try typing "Find Chuck Norris" in the search box and click I'm feeling lucky.
2. Jeff Bezos
Major Impact: Internet, advertising
When Time named Jeff Bezos its Person of the Year, in 1999, he had his greatest impact on Barnes & Noble and Kmart. That all changed a few years ago when Amazon launched Amazon Web Services and follow-ons like Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud-"computing power by the sip," as Bezos calls it. Others call it by its red-hot buzz phrase: cloud computing. (Companies or individuals can lease varying amounts of computing power, data storage, and software, and access it over the internet.) Bezos showed that it could be a real business; Google and Microsoft have followed.
Bezos also turned Amazon.com into a devicemaker with the kind of design chops and user adoration usually reserved for Apple-and made publishers rethink their business models. In late 2008, Oprah gave Amazon's Kindle an on-air endorsement, momentarily sending its shares skyward.
Secret Sauce: Daring. Bezos is more willing than most big-company CEOs to try risky ventures.
Eccentric Project: Blue Origin, which is building rockets for space tourism. First scheduled flight: 2010. Speculation is that it will be possible to hear Bezos' laugh from space.
3. Steve Jobs
Major Impact: Mobile communications
Such is his influence that Steve Jobs stays on the list even during his absence from Apple. He is to the tech industry in the 2000s what the Beatles were to popular music in the 1960s. The iPod changed the music business, and the iPhone and App Store continue to shake up the mobile-phone industry. Before the iPhone, the cell-phone business was all about the size and form of the device. Now the emphasis is shifting to software and what the handset can do.
For now, Apple has the momentum to thrive without its CEO, but the question is whether that can continue if Jobs does not return in June from his leave to deal with his serious health issues. Apple doesn't seem on the verge of taking on another industry or coming out with a radical new product, and no one is sure whether it could pull off a new revolution without Jobs' help.
Bragging Rights: Around 100 million devoted Apple customers worldwide, to whom it has sold about 15 million iPhones, 30 million Macs, and 125 million iPods.
Achilles' Heel: His health - problems are more complex than originally thought.
4. Joe Rospars
The Obama campaign's tech guru, Blue State Digital
Major Impact: Politics
For more than a decade, pundits have predicted that the Web would transform politics. Joe Rospars finally did it. Rospars, still in his 20s (who over 30 would know how to do all this?), served as new-media director for the Obama campaign and used Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, text messaging, and electronic fundraising to interact with supporters. Rospars got his start working the Web for Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid, then used that knowledge to co-found Blue State Digital. After Obama, campaigns are knocking on the company's door.
Power Base: Legions of wanna-Bamas looking for better ways to use the internet to get elected-before their opponents do.
Number of Facebook friends: 977
5. Steven Chu
U.S. Energy Secretary
Major impact: Oil, electricity
It seems like a no-brainer to redirect the Department of Energy from developing nuclear weapons to fighting global warming, and Steven Chu is the guy to do it. A bona fide scientist, Chu has Obama's go-ahead to make greentech a priority. Chu has run the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004 and won a Nobel Prize for figuring out how to cool and trap atoms for examination. He's long worked on energy and climate-change projects. Last year, he told Reuters, "If I were emperor, I would put the pedal to the floor on energy efficiency and conservation."
Power Base: President Obama
Achilles' Heel: Maybe there's a reason there haven't been a lot of scientists in high government positions.
Childhood Eccentricity: Taught himself to pole-vault using bamboo poles from a local carpet store. Managed to clear eight feet.
6. Shigeru Miyamoto
Senior managing director, Nintendo
Major impact: Videogames
Back in 1981, Shigeru Miyamoto created Donkey Kong, Nintendo's first smash hit. But that was nothing compared with the Wii, Miyamoto's brainstorm that came out in late 2006. By making videogames simple to control with hand gestures, the Wii revitalized the entire industry. Nintendo has sold more than 36 million Wii consoles, and Wii Sports recently became the bestselling game of all time. (It passed
Super Mario Bros., another game Miyamoto helped create.)
Over the coming year, Miyamoto will attempt to use the Wii to push videogaming deeper into people's lives. He's already planning a streaming, interactive TV channel through the Wii in Japan.
If successful there, Nintendo will consider going international with the channel in late 2009.
Achilles' Heel: The fickleness of gamers. The next cool thing could suck away the Wii's users.
Eccentric Project: Miyamoto plays the banjo and considers himself a semipro dog breeder.
7. Jason Kilar
Major Impact: Television
In 2007, Jason Kilar, a preppy former Amazon.com executive, won the job of creating an online TV outlet for a Fox-NBC partnership. It seemed an impossible task, given the anemic results for all previous online-TV efforts. But Kilar coaxed NBC and Fox to post popular content like Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, added some interactive bells and whistles, and made Hulu simple to use. Launched in March 2008, Hulu was, by fall, streaming more than 235 million videos a month, thanks to SNL clips of Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Kilar is proving that professional content paid for by advertising has a place on the Web. The networks owe him a pile of gratitude, if not money.
Power Base: NBC Universal and News Corp.-and Hulu's $100 million in funding.
Achilles' Heel: Web-video monster YouTube-which is dabbling in offering professional content with advertising-is probably coming Hulu's way.
Eccentric Clothing Affectation: Always wears a dark T-shirt under an open-collar button-down dress shirt.
Number of Facebook friends: 159
8. Marissa Mayer
Vice president of search products and user experience, Google
Major impact: All of us
Just about everything with the Google brand that consumers use goes through Marissa Mayer. Google Chrome, Maps, Docs, Gmail, Talk-all of that stuff needed Mayer's approval before it was funded or released to the public. That power gives her enormous sway over the ebb and flow of competition on the internet. Mayer was the first female engineer hired at Google and one of its first 20 employees, so she not only has the confidence of the presiding trio, she's rich as all get-out too.
Achilles' Heel: Google's lack of focus-it seems to throw a lot of spaghetti at the wall. Some sticks (Gmail, Google Maps), and much of it doesn't (Talk, Knol). Its social network, Orkut, is still big in, uh, Brazil.
Worth Watching: Rumor has it Mayer is soon leaving Google. (She says she's not.)
9. Ray Ozzie
Chief software architect, Microsoft
Major impact: Software
Bill Gates retired. CEO Steve Ballmer is stuck in the muck of a failed Yahoo bid and a Vista operating system that users and critics hate. If any Microsoft executive is going to lead the company's renewal, it will be Ray Ozzie. The affable white-haired programmer is the driver behind Microsoft's slow move toward selling software as an internet-based subscription service instead of as a onetime purchase. If Ozzie gets software services right, Microsoft could leap into position to dominate computing for another generation.
Bragging Rights: Ozzie built Lotus Notes, one of the biggest-selling business applications ever. Gates calls him one of the best coders on the planet.
Achilles' Heel: Microsoft's legacy software and cultural inertia make it tough to turn this barge.
Eccentric Management Practice: Thinks deeply while in the shower, sometimes making notes on waterproof paper.
10. Jeffrey Katzenberg
CEO, DreamWorks Animation SKG
Major impact: Movies, theaters
How does Hollywood lure consumers away from their big-screen TVs and YouTube and back out to the movies? Jeffrey Katzenberg preaches that theaters need to go home systems one better by showing 3-D films, and he's hell-bent on pushing the entire industry that way.
He's announced that starting in 2009, with the release of
Monsters vs. Aliens, every DreamWorks animated movie will be in 3-D. But that strategy will work only if most theaters can show digital 3-D, and right now, only a fraction have the proper and-at more than $70,000 a pop-expensive equipment. So Katzenberg, who has a long record of successes, including 1994's The Lion King at Disney, helped organize a consortium named Digital Cinema Implementation Partners to help theaters pay for the 3-D upgrades.
His push has energized companies ranging from makers of 3-D projectors (Real D, Dolby) to developers of 3-D moviemaking cameras and editing systems.
Achilles' Heel: The 3-D television sets that Philips, LG, and others are developing.
Eccentric Investment Decision: Lost millions to superscammer Bernie Madoff.