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13 people who defined tech in 2012: Buyers, sellers, fired, and fugitives

13 people who defined tech in 2012

Can you believe it’s almost 2013?  A lot has happened in the world of technology in the past 12 months, and most of it can be traced back to these 13 people. Below, we take a look at the personalities that shaped and defined technology in 2012. 

Steven Sinofsky – Ex-Microsoft Executive

Steven Sinofsky (BUILD)A part of Microsoft since the late 1980’s, Steven Sinofsky abruptly left the company in November, shortly after the release of Windows 8 and Microsoft’s Surface tablet. Sinofsky’s took over Microsoft’s Windows division in 2006, leading the development of Windows 7. His resignation came as a surprise and is largely shrouded in mystery. While he issued a statement over his departure, there are many speculations about why he truly left the company after more than two decades at the company – and especially at that particular time. Having taught at Harvard back in 1999, Sinofsky recently announced on Twitter that he will be returning to the Harvard Business School to teach in the spring of 2013. 

Marissa Mayer – Yahoo CEO

Marissa MayerMarissa Mayer was known for being Google’s first female engineer when she joined the company as its twentieth employee in 1999. After 13 years with Google, Mayer joined Yahoo this year and was appointed as President and CEO in July. Though six months pregnant when she started, Mayer quickly got to work making plans for the company in hopes of injecting some much-needed life. The fifth Yahoo CEO within five years, Mayer has a lot of work to do to get the ailing company up to snuff. So far, Mayer has made some staff and policy changes, has made Flickr awesome again, has revamped Yahoo mail, and is working on a new Yahoo homepage.

Tim Cook – Apple CEO

Tim Cook CEO of Apple (Reuters image)Everybody knows Tim Cook as the man who had very large shoes to fill when he took on the role of Apple’s CEO after Steve Jobs passed away in October 2011. Cook was COO of Apple prior to serving as temporary CEO twice while Jobs was battling pancreatic cancer. Under Cook’s leadership as CEO, the company launched its third and fourth generation of the iPad, the iPad mini, and the iPhone 5, and the company was most recently valued at $488 billion.He famously apologized for the notorious Apple Maps app that replaced Google Maps on iOS 6, and he’s one of the runner-ups for Time’s Person of the Year for 2012

Scott Forstall – Ex-Senior Vice President of Apple iOS

Scott ForstallScott Forstall, Apple’s former executive responsible for creating the iOS operating system that runs on your iPhones and iPads, started out at Steve Jobs’ first company, NeXT, in 1992. Still with Jobs’ company twenty years later, Forstall oversaw the development of Apple Maps. A popular subject of Internet vitriol, Apple Maps eventually led to Forstall’s departure from the company. According to The Wall Street Journal, Forstall refused to sign his name on Apple’s official public apology over the Maps app. Despite him being one of the most recognized names at Apple, Cook fired him in October. When asked why he let Forstall go, Cook gave Businessweek a lengthy reply, part of which reads: “You have to be an A-plus at collaboration. And so the changes that we made get us to a whole new level of collaboration.” 

Kevin Systrom – Instagram CEO and Co-founder

Headed by CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom, 2012 was a huge year for the Instagram team. Systrom, a Stanford graduate, briefly worked for Google before joining forces with Mike Krieger for the startup that became Instagram. In April, Facebook acquired the popular photo filter app for a whopping $1 billion. What’s even more astounding is the fact that Instagram had no revenue model. A end-of-year kerfuffle shook Instagram users when news that the company could legally sell users’ photos and put them in ads. Systrom clarified the murky terms of conditions that sent users in a panic, but the company isn’t out of hot water yet. Instagram has been slapped with a class-action lawsuit over its terms of services.

Mark Zuckerberg – CEO and Co-founder of Facebook

Who doesn’t know Mark Zuckerberg? The Facebook CEO had an eventful 2012. Eight years since its launch, Facebook went public in May, offering anyone with money the chance to own a chunk of the world’s largest social network. Merely a day after the company’s initial public offering (IPO), Zuckerberg married his long-time girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, whom he met at Harvard.

But May wasn’t all roses for Zuck. When Facebook shares hit a new low by the end of its first month after a very successful IPO, it was believed that Zuckerberg lost roughly $4 billion of his own fortune. We almost felt sorry for him until we remembered that losing $4 billion was no skin off his back. Zuckerberg gave his first post-IPO interview at TechCrunch Disrupt in September, and admitted Facebook’s stock performance had been disappointing. “We are going to do things that are going to build value over the long term,” Zuckerberg said. “It all comes down to how well we do with mobile.” 

Bre Pettis – CEO and Co-Founder of Makerbot

Bre Pettis is CEO and co-founder of one of the most widely-recognized names in 3D printing. Makerbot Industries, which is responsible for creating a range of commercially available and relatively inexpensive 3D printers, took a huge leap forward in 2012 when it opened a physical store in New York City. Not only does the store sell 3D printers and supplies, it also gives visitors a taste of what 3D printing is all about thanks to booths that print out your head on demand. Makerbot’s newest printer is the Replicator 2 priced at $2,199.

Kim Dotcom – Megaupload Founder

Born Kim Schmitz, the Megaupload founder legally changed his name in 2005 – the same year the file-sharing website started operations. His lavish lifestyle, with his collection of luxury cars and frequent partying, has been widely reported by the media. After almost seven years of operation, Megaupload was shut down in January of 2012 due to allegations that the website promotes copyright infringement, followed by an ongoing legal battle. Dotcom was arrested in his native New Zealand. Prior to Megaupload, Dotcom had a history of hacking and previous brushes with the law. He is currently working on a new cloud storage service called Mega that he intends to launch in early 2013

Lamar Smith – U.S. Representative and SOPA Author

lamar-smith-congressDo you remember coming across blacked-out websites back in January? Some of those websites, including Wikipedia, have probably linked you to SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, a controversial bill authored by U.S. Republican Representative Lamar Smith. SOPA died before ever becoming a law thanks to big companies like Google taking a strong stance against it. Had it passed, SOPA would’ve given the U.S. government even greater power to take legal action against websites for alleged copyright infringement. SOPA would have allowed the government to block entire Internet domains, threatening free speech and innovation. Lamar Smith also authored IPAA in July, another intellectual property bill. 

Elon Musk – Co-founder of Tesla Motors, PayPal, and SpaceX

The South African-born entrepreneur – who’s believed to have served as a model for the movie version of Iron Man – left home at 17 and went on to build online payment service PayPal, electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors, and, more recently, private space company SpaceX. SpaceX made headlines this year when it became the first private company to shuttle supplies for astronauts in the International Space Station via the Dragon space capsule. According to Musk, SpaceX will focus on developing technology  that can shuttle astronauts to the International Space Station in the future. The company’s long-term goal is to transport people to Mars. Oh, did we mention a ticket to the red planet will cost you $500,000

Markus “Notch” Persson – Creator of Minecraft

Better known as “Notch” in the gaming community, Markus Persson is responsible for creating one of the most addictive games to date: Minecraft. The game, originally for PCs only, was released in 2009. A number of versions have since been available for various platforms, including ones for iOS, Android, and Xbox 360. As of December 13, 2012, Notch and his team have sold 17.5 million copies of Minecraft overall. 

Reed Hastings – CEO of Netflix

reed-hastings-timeReed Hastings founded streaming company Netflix in 1998. With high-speed Internet becoming more and more accessible to the average consumer, Netflix has steadily grown over the years. But Hastings is currently on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s naughty list after he failed to follow protocol. The streaming media executive posted a status update on Facebook when Netflix exceeded one billion hours of monthly viewing in June. According to the SEC, this type of information should’ve been announced in a press release available for viewing by the public, which leads us to believe that the SEC has no idea how a public Facebook profile works. 

John McAfee – Founder of McAfee Inc.

Founding the McAfee anti-virus company in 1987, John McAfee left the company in the ’90s and had done a fairly good job at lying low since – that is, until news of running from a murder allegation hit the media. McAfee had been living in Belize the last few years, investing millions into businesses in the country, when his name was linked to the murder of his neighbor. McAfee was reportedly not on good terms with the victim who was found dead after being shot in the back of his head. While the Belize police claims that he wasn’t being charged for anything, and that they only wanted to bring him in for questioning, McAfee, convinced the country’s government wanted him dead, chose to run and leave everything behind. McAfee ran from the law for a month, donning disguises and faking illnesses along the way. After being deported from Guatemala, which he entered illegally, the nearly penniless McAfee is now staying in Miami

(Image credit: Official LeWeb PhotosAndreas Bohnenstengel, Steve Jurvetson, Ez, Alexander Klink)

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