10 Rock Star Tech Execs You've Never Heard Of (AAPL, MSFT, GOOG) - Gallery

10. Loopt cofounder/CEO Sam Altman

The word you hear over and over about Sam Altman is "will."

As in, he has it — to succeed, to overcome.

Here's what he told Charlie Rose when Google introduced Loopt-clone Latitude: "You know, I'm happy to say that there was a lot of talk about Latitude is going to kill Loopt, and it hasn't even come close to happening yet. I think we have huge respect for Google, but we can out-innovate anybody in the world, I hope, and we're very focused on this. We're nimble, we're quick, and we'll keep delivering a better product."

Y Combinator's Paul Graham puts Altman on the same list of founder he puts Steve Jobs:
Sam is, along with Steve Jobs, the founder I refer to most when I'm advising startups. On questions of design, I ask "What would Steve do?" but on questions of strategy or ambition I ask "What would Sam do?"

What I learned from meeting Sam is that the doctrine of the elect applies to startups. It applies way less than most people think: startup investing does not consist of trying to pick winners the way you might in a horse race. But there are a few people with such force of will that they're going to get whatever they want.

10 Rock Star Tech Execs You've Never Heard Of (AAPL, MSFT, GOOG) - Gallery

9. Google CFO Patrick Pichette

Google has always been an unstoppable cash-generating machine. The problem was, for much of its short history, Google was also extremely undiscplined about where it spent all that cash. That changed when Patrick Pichette became CFO last year and promised to "feed the winners," and "starve the losers."

Of course, that's just good business sense. Patrick's real talent — says a Google insider — is his ability to communicate the need for cost discipline in a way that Google's academically-minded upper management can buy into.

Says the Insider: "[Patrick] thinks like a normal business person but he has the academic credibility to be taken seriously here. Not aggressive or overbearing, but introducing the kind of discipline good companies all have. He has a slightly academic air and that really plays here."

10 Rock Star Tech Execs You've Never Heard Of (AAPL, MSFT, GOOG) - Gallery

8. President of AOL Media Bill Wilson

If new AOL CEO Tim Armstrong turns around AOL, it will be because of AOL Media president Bill Wilson. He oversees 1,500 fulltime and freelance editors and writers — an editorial staff larger than the New York Times newsroom — working to turn AOL into the Time Inc. for the 21st Century.

10 Rock Star Tech Execs You've Never Heard Of (AAPL, MSFT, GOOG) - Gallery

7. Google SVP Jonathan Rosenberg

You use Google's vast portfolio of products all the time, but do know the name of the top executive behind them?

Here's a hint: it's not cofounders Larry Page or Sergey Brin. It's not the photogenic Marissa Mayer. It's SVP Jonathan Rosenberg.

Why all the power? Maybe because one of the only people at Google willing to raise his voice.

Valleywag: Google's Mountain View campus is a happy primary-colored wonderland where no one ever screams or yells. Except for SVP Jonathan Rosenberg. A Google employee tells us that at the Googleplex Rosenberg is known as "a shitkicker" who "likes to crack the whip." Google lore has it that Rosenberg likes to yell so much, he even hollered during his hiring interview, presumably with Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
People were like what the fuck is going on in that conference room? And then someone was like someone is interviewing, and it's the interviewee who's doing the yelling. He just literally likes to yell.

His broken volume dial hasn't hurt his career: Rosenberg is one of a handful of execs who's allowed to participate in Google's quarterly earnings calls with Wall Street.

10 Rock Star Tech Execs You've Never Heard Of (AAPL, MSFT, GOOG) - Gallery

Hulu CTO Eric Feng

Talk about innovating under pressure. Web TV startup Hulu is a News Corp, NBC, and Disney joint venture, but don't be mistaken. There are plenty of powerful TV and film executives at News Corp, NBC, and Disney who see Hulu as an existential threat and desperately want it to fail.

Credit Hulu CTO Eric Feng — "responsible for the design and implementation of the Hulu user experience," according to his company bio — for creating a product users love, thereby depriving those insider skeptics all ammunition.

Here's that bio:

Eric Feng | Senior Vice President of Audience and CTO
Eric Feng serves as the Chief Technical Officer of Hulu and Senior Vice President of the Audience Business where he is responsible for the design and implementation of the Hulu user experience. Prior to joining Hulu, Eric was the Founder and CEO of Mojiti, LLC an online video annotation service located in Beijing, China. Eric's past experience also includes several years at Microsoft and Microsoft Research Asia; Tsinghua University in Beijing, China where he served as a visiting professor; and Trilogy Software where he incubated Uberworks.com, an Internet startup later acquired by a public company. Eric graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was awarded the IEC Everitt Award, recognizing the top graduating engineering student.

10 Rock Star Tech Execs You've Never Heard Of (AAPL, MSFT, GOOG) - Gallery

5. Microsoft president of Windows Steven Sinofsky

Steve Sinofsky is the man who saved Windows for Microsoft.

Following a successful run shipping Microsoft Office products, he took over Windows development in 2006 after multliple delays postponed Vista's launch.

Soon after, he wrote a memo to CEO Steve Ballmer saying, "We need to decide what we will do and do that well and 100% and not just do a little of everything."

After getting Windows 7 ready for launch ahead of schedule, he was made president of Microsoft's Windows division in July.

(Meanwhile, Steve Ballmer should take this advice about the whole company, not just the Windows division).

10 Rock Star Tech Execs You've Never Heard Of (AAPL, MSFT, GOOG) - Gallery

4. MLB.com CEO Bob Bowman

Bob runs pro baseball's web operations, which means he runs the most successful online business in professional sports, with annual revenues surpassing half a billion dollars.

He does it pushing his team to innovate its product above and beyond what any other sports league offers every year.

10 Rock Star Tech Execs You've Never Heard Of (AAPL, MSFT, GOOG) - Gallery

3. Zynga CEO Mark Pincus

Before 2009, the prevailing wisdom was that the Facebook App economy didn't exist and that U.S. startups would never figure out how to sell virtual goods like they do in Asia.

As CEO fo Zynga, Mark Pincus is proving all that wrong. People say Zynga could cross $100 million in revenues in 2009. More and more, we're hearing that's a conservative estimate.

10 Rock Star Tech Execs You've Never Heard Of (AAPL, MSFT, GOOG) - Gallery

2. Facebook VP of Product, Chris Cox

Chris is a triple threat — an engineer who can build company-defining products, a operator who can recruit and manage good people, and a long-term strategic thinker. He joined Facebook as engineer in 2005 and helped build the product that is now the site's backbone — the "News Feed."

Then, in 2008, after period in which Facebook lost several key employees and lost out on hiring several high-profile new ones, Mark Zuckerberg asked Chris to shore up Facebook's human resources division.

Leading that group, Chris focused on defining Facebook's mission, company values, product values and how Facebook manages people. He turned Facebook from a place that, despite its red-hot hype, failed to land the top talent into one that regularly poaches from places like Yahoo, Google and LinkedIn.

Now, Chris is back on the product side of the company, overseeing the product managers team, the user-experience team, and the design team as VP of Product.

Chris's ability to innovate Facebook products and lead its people does not go unappreciated at the startup.

"I can't underscore how much he represents and embodies what this company stands for," says Facebook spokesboss Brandee Barker.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tells us, "Chris has a ton of energy for product, engineering, and people, and he motivates everyone here at Facebook to work better, think smarter, and pursue the ideas they are passionate about."

10 Rock Star Tech Execs You've Never Heard Of (AAPL, MSFT, GOOG) - Gallery

1. Apple SVP Scott Forstall

In August, we declared that Apple is the new Microsoft :

Apple is now the wildly profitable owner of the dominant iPod platform and rapidly-becoming dominant iPhone platform, which are really one in the same. Unlike any other competitor in the industry, moreover—including the still PC-centric Microsoft—Apple has managed to link the two big personal computing platforms together, through its software and resurgent Mac business.

As Apple extends its lead as the mobile computing platform of choice—calling the iPhone a "phone" misses the point—Apple's dominance of this enormous opportunity will increase. This dominance should put Apple in a position to generate an extraordinary share of the value in the this industry over the next decade, just as Microsoft did with desktop computing.

There's plenty of credit to go around for Apple's rise to the top, but one name that doesn't get mentioned enough is Scott Forstall's, the SVP behind Apple's iPhone software.