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Satya Nadella and Tim Cook crack Time magazine's list of the world's 100 Most Influential People

Satya Nadella and Tim Cook may not be as well known as Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis but they appear alongside them in the latest Time magazine list. However, the tech industry choices are not always the ones you might expect
Written by Jack Schofield, Contributor
Time magazine cover featuring Kanye West
Time magazine's list of the world's 100 Most Influential People includes the expected collection of presidents, prime ministers, popes and pop stars including Barack Obama (USA), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Angela Merkel (Germany), Xi Jinping (China) and half a dozen more. The trendsetters include Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Björk, and Emma Watson.

Not many tech industry figures would make the list in Time's April 27 double issue, but you might guess a few. Bill Gates for his charity work? Larry Page and Sergey Brin for everything they do at Google? Mark Zuckerberg for Facebook? Tim Cook for running Apple? No, no, no, no, yes.

Tim Cook has made the cut, but the some other tech industry choices are a little more surprising. They include Microsoft boss Satya Nadella; Reid Hoffman, who founded LinkedIn; Susan Wojcicki, who runs YouTube; and Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi, the Chinese cell-phone maker.

Tim Cook is cited for "setting a new standard for what business can do in the world". It says: "Tim is unwavering in his support of an individual's right to privacy and is not only embracing equality and LGBT rights but advocating for change through his words and actions. His commitment to renewable energy is also leaving our planet a little cleaner and a little greener for generations yet unborn."

The "cleaner" may not include the extraction of rare metals, the Chinese factory production, or the eventual disposal of mountains of hard-to-repair products, though those criticisms aren't unique to Apple.

Of course, you can't repeat the same list year after year. Including relative unknowns challenges preconceptions while introducing people to a wider audience. Perhaps Susan Wojcicki, Satya Nadella and Lei Jun fall into that category. They may be known to techies and to some who buy or use their products, but not, I suspect to the average Time magazine reader.

Susan Wojcicki's achievements include making YouTube "an even more ubiquitous experience, where the most inexpensive, rudimentary stories can be told right alongside those with unlimited resources". (Wasn't that true from day one?) Google was once run from Wojcicki's garage and she has achieved great things at the company, but is she more influential than, say, Sheryl Sandberg or even Marissa Mayer? More influential than Mark Zuckerberg or Edward Snowden?

Lei Jun has been included for the success of Xiaomi, which has become "the world's most valuable tech start-up," worth $46 billion. Time says "Xiaomi is exactly the sort of disruptive tech company China needs as its economy tries to transition away from low-cost manufacturing."

Satya Nadella
Image credit: Microsoft
Satya Nadella's citation, by Box CEO Aaron Levie, credits him with "driving openness where Microsoft was once closed, even when it has meant supporting competing services in the process. Changes that once would have been considered blasphemous -- releasing open-source software, building on iOS and Android and even making Windows free in some cases -- are turning Microsoft around."

It would be churlish to point out that some of these things go back 10 or 20 years - except for making Windows "zero paid" - and that development of iOS and Android software started under Steve Ballmer.

Further, it will be a disaster if Nadella does turn Microsoft around: under Ballmer, the company tripled sales and doubled profits, and it has even caught up with IBM. But this is not to criticize the likable Nadella, who has certainly played a big part in turning Microsoft's image around.

Anita Sarkeesian is another somewhat tech-related choice. She is moderately famous as one of the leading victims of "hysterical and childish" gamergate-related misogynist abuse. Her "crime" was producing a series of short - and rather good - YouTube videos about women in video games, which is some way short of burning down the White House.

In his recommendation, Wil Wheaton says: "Anita is a feminist for the digital age, using modern tools and platforms to engage thousands of people who want to hear her thoughts and respond to the challenges she raises."

Incidentally, the list of contributors to Time's list is almost as impressive as the people on it. They include Hillary Clinton, Jamie Lee Curtis, Carl Icahn, Apple's Jonathan Ive, Laurene Powell Jobs, Rupert Murdoch, Elon Musk, Jack Nicholson, Barack Obama, Rand Paul, Maria Shriver, Taylor Swift and Serena Williams. Time's Radhika Jones says: "I've come to think of it as the TIME 200, because of all our influential contributors." The venerable magazine still has a pulling power that websites like BuzzFeed lack.

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