Digital Power: Hardware Heroes

Making the machines changing the media


George Linardos (Illustration by Christopher Hues)
 
George Linardos
Vp product management, Nokia's media group

Suppose your dad did special effects for "Star Wars" and you cut your Hollywood teeth helping develop "The People vs. Larry Flynt." Would your career trajectory land you at Nokia? "What was happening there was what I had always longed for," Linardos says, "a business focused on where things are going to be in two, three or four years." Now he's overseeing the launch of OviStore, a never-before-attempted drive to link as many as 300 million mobile phones into one media network. Previously, he co-founded and headed mosh.nokia.com, a mobile platform for creating and sharing user-generated mobile content.

Mitchell Berman
CEO and co-founder, ZillionTV

Robert Kennedy once inspired Berman to consider a career aiding the disadvantaged. At ZillionTV, the former HBO exec is helping consumers free themselves from pay TV subscriptions. The startup, fueled by agreements with Disney, NBC, Sony Television and Warner Bros., is preparing to roll out a service that allows users to stream their favorite programs, movies and sports events on-demand from their TV sets. Consumers either pay or agree to watch targeted commercials. Berman insists he is a "value-added service," not a replacement for cable and satellite. Still, "what I'm doing is blasphemy," he says.

Tim Bucher
Vp consumer content solutions, Dell

Bucher worked with Apple on the iPod and iMac as well as Microsoft on the Xbox and WebTV. In 2007, he joined Dell when it acquired his startup, Zing. "I think I'm the only person who has worked for Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell," he says. Dell drew notice in September with a deal that preloaded copies of "Iron Man" on the company's customizable computers. Bucher's new passion is making stand-alone devices almost irrelevant, synchronizing media offerings across platforms.

Eddy Cue
Vp Internet services, Apple

The power that Cue holds in digital entertainment has risen in direct accordance with the growth of iTunes. Over the years, online sales of movies, television and music have grown exponentially, putting Cue in a position to leverage deals for HD media, rentals, DRM-free songs and variable pricing from entertainment studios. After a recent promotion, Cue now handles all online services, including the company's expanding mobile offerings.

Avner Ronen
CEO and co-founder, Boxee

When Ronen launched Boxee with friends in 2006, he just wanted to display programs on TVs that he already was streaming over the Internet on his Mac. Now the service -- which allows users to bypass TV distribution entirely -- has become popular enough that network-backed aggregators Hulu.com and TV.com now block Boxee for fear it will peel off their advertisers. "Some people in the industry freak out about it," the Israel-born Ronen explains. "It threatens the incumbent business model." So Ronen is taking meetings with TV studios and trying to convince them he can make them money.

Blair Westlake
Corporate vp, Microsoft

Anybody flying the Los Angeles-Seattle shuttle has a good chance of running into Westlake. As Microsoft's point person on deals bringing content to such products as Xbox Live and Zune, he makes the trip about 60 times a year. His 20 years at Universal help persuade studio execs to sign off on subscription and sell-through licensing arrangements. "It's amazing what I can accomplish in 10 minutes, where if I didn't know the person, it might take weeks to negotiate," he says.

Anthony Wood
CEO, Roku

Wood sold iband for $32 million and ReplayTV for $110 million. Now his sixth startup offers a set-top digital video player for $99, and it's making a splash. Before each venture, Wood first looks for ideal partners. With Roku, he persuaded Netflix to partner for streaming videos, and he now has sold "hundreds of thousands" of video players in the 12 months they've been on the market. In January, he announced a new deal with Amazon.

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