10. Andy Rubin
Vice President of Engineering, Google
Back in 2005, Google acquired a small mobile software company named Android. Its CEO, Andy Rubin, had previously created Danger, the operating system that eventually found a home in T-Mobile Sidekicks. Five years later, Android remains Rubin’s baby, and is the fastest growing smart phone platform on the market with an impressive 28 percent market share in the U.S. Google’s app market is growing just as quickly, now stocking well over 50,000 programs.
And even though iPhone OS 4 adds tons of enhancements, Android is hardly standing still; the OS now supports Flash playback, voice typing, and deeper Twitter integration. And that’s just phones. Under Rubin’s leadership, Android is now becoming ubiquitous, appearing on everything from eReaders to tablets.
9. Jen-Hsun Huang
Co-Founder, President, and CEO, Nvidia
The visual computing revolution Huang helped start is about to get huge by going small. Huang, whose team led the development of the graphics processing unit, is building a case for its massive parallel computing power to find a home inside netbooks, tablets, and even smart phones. Nvidia’s low-power Tegra chip is the brains behind the Zune HD and new Microsoft Kin phone, and Tegra 2 is expected to drive a new wave of Android-powered slates capable of 1080p video playback and full Flash support.
On the laptop front, the company unveiled Optimus earlier this year, a technology that enables netbooks and notebooks to seamlessly switch between integrated and discrete graphics chips on the fly, coupling extra-long battery life with enough muscle to crunch video–and bad guys on the battlefield. With hardware-accelerated video playback taking off and video becoming an integral part of the mobile experience, Huang has what it takes to challenge Intel and Qualcomm.
8. Gianfranco Lanci
In 2009, Gianfranco Lanci had his sights set on putting Acer at the top of the PC heap. He predicted the company would pass Dell as the No. 2 computer maker by market share, and by the end of the year he delivered. The Italian-born Lanci started off at Texas Instruments, then joined Acer shortly after it acquired TI in the late 1990s. His successes as head of Acer Europe and Acer EMEA led to his quick rise through the ranks, landing him as the Taiwanese company’s first European CEO.
Though western leadership hasn’t always worked out for Asian companies, Lanci has bucked that trend so far. By jumping on the netbook bandwagon faster than most, Acer increased market share when overall computer sales flagged. With Lanci at the helm, Acer is poised to continue its global growth, not only with redesigned notebooks that place an emphasis on value, but with a new batch of smart phones and tablets.
1. Steve Jobs
There are a lot of words we could use to describe Steve Jobs’ influence, but let’s start with some numbers instead. Like $225.1 billion. That was Apple’s market cap as of press time, compared to $222.7 for Microsoft, the world’s largest retailer. Here’s another one: 59. That’s how many days it took Apple to sell 2 million iPads. During that time owners of the first consumer tablet actually worth buying downloaded 12 million apps and 1.5 million eBooks. Add in 2.9 million Macs and 8.8 million iPhones sold during the second quarter, and it’s easy to see why investors and consumers couldn’t be happier to have Steve Jobs still in the driver’s seat.
Does Apple’s CEO have too much influence? Depends on whom you ask. Some say Jobs’ very public preference for HTML5 versus Adobe Flash when it comes to video delivery could help kill the latter technology, even though he’s far from the only critic. In addition, Apple’s recent decision to only allow its own programming tools to write applications for the iPad and iPhone (excluding Adobe CS5) led to reports that the company could be the subject of an antitrust inquiry. Jobs defended the move by saying that “letting a third-party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps.”
So is Jobs the ultimate control freak? You could say that. But as the iPad and newest iPhone will probably prove once again, his customers wouldn’t have it any other way.