The Innovation Bracket

You pick the CEOs that drove the most important new developments in the past 25 years

UPDATE: (drum roll please) Vint Cerf wins!

After more than a month of voting, the voters named Vint Cerf the most innovative tech executive in the past 25 years. He carried 64% of the vote in beating out Apple's Steve Jobs. After 31 matches, it came down to the scientist (as one commenter called him) who created the Internet winning the whole ball of wax.  I am sure this award will go right up next to his Presidential Medal of Freedom.

There were some intriguing matchups and some upsets. It was not surprising to see Steve Ballmer knocked out in the first round, but a bit surprising that Steve Jobs went as far as he did but Bill Gates was defeated in the second round. Guess that could be because Gates went up against Cerf.

As some commenters noted, it should not be assumed that CEOs are the ones behind innovation at a company. Some said Bob Metcalfe should have been in here. Who else? Create a write-in candidate in the comments section at the bottom of this page. 

From the beginning

It is time for May Madness. OK, there might not be as much fanfare as the college basketball version of the brackets, but think of this as a second chance at redemption after all those red marks littered your NCAA picks this past March.

The Network World staff has selected 32 of the top innovative minds in the technology industry in the past 25 years. It is now up to you, the reader, to determine who moves onto the next round. There will be a daily poll pitting industry execs and the brackets will be updated each day.

So what segment of the tech industry will come out on top? Will the young pups of social media like Mark Zuckerberg or Twitter's Biz Stone come in and steal the thunder from stalwarts like Bill Gates or IBM's Lou Gerstner? Who believes that software is the main innovation in the tech industry or is it hardware. There could be some interesting matchups down the road with someone like Joe Tucci of EMC going against Oracle's Larry Ellison. How will open source hold up? 

Brackets of tech industry's most innovative person

Reconnect with your inner Dick Vitale and make some predictions below in our comment section. Am I allowed to call Zuckerberg a "Diaper Dandy," as the boisterous ESPN announcer would say? Or is Steve Jobs a PTPer? (Prime Time Player for those of you not up on your Vitale speak.)

Make your voice heard each day and vote in our poll below. Let the games begin.

TODAY'S MATCHUP: Vint Cerf vs. Steve Jobs

It is the Father of the Internet vs. the person who has brought comsumerization into the enterprise. Vint Cerf and Steve Jobs have steamrolled their way through the field to get to the finals. It is now a chicken-and-egg situation: without the Internet would Apple's products be as popular today? Or did Apple's products push the Internet to new heights? 

SEMIFINAL 2: The line of products Apple has put out appears to be what is driving voters to put Steve Jobs in the finals. He defeated Marc Andreessen with 74% of the vote.  

SEMIFINAL 1: The "Father of the Internet" vs. the creator of the World Wide Web. Apparently the Internet trumps the World Wide Web as Vint Cerf moves on to the finals with a 59% majority over Tim Berners-Lee. Cerf now awaits the winner of Steve Jobs and Marc Andreessen to see who wins the whole ball of wax.

ROUND 3, MATCH 4: Steve Jobs is the brains behind Apple it appears as voters moved him into the semifinals with almost 75% of the vote against Intel's Paul Otellini. The Intel chief still had a good showing in defeating Mark Zuckerberg and Lou Gerstner. Jobs beat out Miguel de Icaza in the first round and then friend Steve Wozniak in the second round. 

ROUND 3, MATCH 3: In what is the closest race in the bracket game, Mark Andreessen got by Scott McNealy by one vote. That Netscape mojo must be working for Andreessen. On paper it seemed like an easy win for Andreessen, but McNealy had already pulled off the upset of Larry Ellison. So why not one more? Andreessen took down the mighty Cisco CEO last round, so it would seem that the former Sun boss wouldn't be any tougher to conquer. 

ROUND 3, MATCH 2: The World Wide Web trumps Lotus Notes, easily. Tim Berners-Lee had little trouble with Ray Ozzie in winning this matchup with 81% of the vote. Ozzie has already beaten Steve Ballmer badly and just got by Jerry Yang. Berners-Lee had no problem with the Google kings and Diane Greene in early rounds. 

ROUND 3, MATCH 1: In the closest match yet, Vint Cerf just got by Linus Torvalds with 55% of the vote. When you are the father of the Internet, you seem to be tough to beat. Cerf took down the mighty Bill Gates in the last round while Torvalds pushed Google's Eric Schmidt to the background as well. As we get deeper into the contest, it appears the CEOs are not considered the most innovative as seen with the thought leaders left in the brackets. 

ROUND 2, MATCH 8: In the closest race yet, Intel's Paul Otellini edged former IBM chief Lou Gerstner 58% to 41%. Both Paul Otellini and Lou Gerstner took down the young, up and comers in the first round. In this social networking world, apparently word did not get out to the hoards of friends on Facebook and Twitter followers as Biz Stone and Mark Zuckerberg were taken down by the old guard. 

ROUND 2, MATCH 7: It appears the votes felt Steve Jobs was the brains behind the Apple corporation as seen with its resurgence since he returned from exile. Jobs was ousted in 1985, only to return in 1996 and in so doing taking the company to new heights with the advent of the iPod, iPad and iPhone. They met in 1971, when their mutual friend, Bill Fernandez, introduced 21-year-old Wozniak to 16-year-old Jobs. Jobs managed to interest Wozniak in assembling a machine and selling it. Wozniak left Apple once he determined that he wanted to create technology on his own more than in an organized structure of a corporation.

ROUND 2, MATCH 6: Scott McNealy extracted his revenge, in resounding fashion with 85% of the vote against former boss Larry Ellison. This is one of two really intriguing matchups in the second round. McNealy goes along his way as the head of Sun for many years. Pretty much on top of the world for his niche market until one day Oracle and Larry Ellison swoop in and buy Sun. At that point McNealy's life changed, he became a small fish in a big pond. It didn't take long for Ellison's persona to overshadow McNealy, leading to him leaving the joined company. 

ROUND 2, MATCH 5: Marc Andreessen showed that his legacy could not be bought out like Cisco acquires companies. He defeated Chambers with 64% of the vote. John Chambers got byEd Whitacre in the first round with 70% of the vote. Andreessen had little trouble with Red Hat's Matthew Szulik by garnering 86% of the vote. 

ROUND 2, MATCHUP 4: Apparently two against one is still not enough as Tim Berners-Lee garnered 81% of the vote in taking down Google's kings. When you are the creator of the World Wide Web I suppose opponents need to gang up on you.  Berners-Lee creamed his first round opponent, HP's Leo Apotheker, who garnered no votes. Page and Brin got a battle from former VMware head Diane Greene, but prevailed with 65% of the vote. 

ROUND 2, MATCHUP 3: It appears Ray Ozzie is selected for his innovative prowess and not because people just don't like Steve Ballmer. It was neck and neck with Yahoo's Jerry Yang until the very end when Ozzie pulled away with 60% of the vote.

ROUND 2, MATCHUP 2: The open source world came in with full force to see Linus Torvalds off to the quarterfinals with more than 75% of the vote to defeat Google's Eric Schmidt. Both competitors had little problems getting by their first round opponents as Torvalds took down Mark Hurd, adding to his disastrous year. Schmidt had little trouble with Meg Whitman in giving her another defeat to match her gubernatorial loss in California. 

ROUND 2: In what can only be thought of as a gigantic upset to the casual fan, Vint Cerf took out the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates. The father of the Internet vs. the father of the monopolistic company that set out to rule the technology world. Vint Cerf took out Scott Kriens in the first round and looks to do the same with Gates as some believe Microsoft wouldn't be anywhere without the Internet. But if not for the antitrust suit, maybe Microsoft would have gone after the Internet too. 

MATCHUP 16: In less than 140 characters, the voters easily told Biz Stone that he doesn't quite measure up to Lou Gerstner. Gerstner saw to it that even though IBM faded in the PC market, it remained relevant with Big Blue's mainframes. Biz Stone had plenty of naysayers when Twitter was rolled out. What can you say in 140 characters, many asked. Perhaps riding the coattails of Facebook, Twitter became an integral part of social networking to the point of now saying it has 105 million users.

MATCHUP 15: In what was a shocker in this social networking world, Paul Otellini knocked off the social networking king Mark Zuckerberg. This was one of Zuckerberg's rare losses this year after earning, $19.8 billion, was named this year as Time's Person of the Year and has his own comic book. Otellini has led Intel through a constant battle with AMD, as each tries to position themselves to be king of the processors. Last month Otellini outlined Intel's shift in an attempt to stay ahead of competitors.

MATCHUP 14: Apparently voters like Apple's over Dell computers. Steve Wozniak garnered 71% of the vote to knock off Dell CEO Michael Dell. Dell does not fear the gigantic shift to smartphones as central processing devices. Instead he believes there is a time and a place for smartphones and desktops to play harmoniously thanks to the cloud. He believes that each user will have many devices, each geared for a specific task. Wozniak recently flopped when he took out his dancing frustrations on the "Dancing with the Stars" judges. But aside from that failed attempt, Wozniak's main claim to fame was his partnership with Steve Jobs in starting up Apple.  

MATCHUP 13: In admitting he would be the first one in line to get a new iPad 2, Miguel de Icaza pretty much talked his way out of his contest against Steve Jobs in a 70% to 30% defeat. Jobs and Apple have pretty much re-revoluntionized PCs as well as portable music players, smartphones and now tablets. It was no coincidence that Apple's resurgence came when Jobs got back into the day-to-day operations. De Icaza, who has been prominent in the open source world since creating GNOME, seems to care at least as much about usability as he does the principles behind the free software movement. De Icaza gets his share of criticism because of his occasional support for Microsoft software and other proprietary projects, but he says that, in some cases, usability should trump openness. 

MATCHUP 12: Larry Ellison squeaked past Randall Stephenson 65% to 35%. Stephenson's most recent public bout has been with Congress, as he argues for the approval of AT&T's buyout of T-Mobile. He joined Southwestern Bell in 1982, rose up through the ranks, and in 2007 was named CEO to succeed Ed Whitacre. Oracle's Larry Ellison has been consistently deemed the bad boy of the tech industry for his lavish lifestyle and blunt, in your face persona. He consistently ranks among the highest-paid tech CEOs and 2010 was no exception. He raked in $70.1 million, which is 17% less than the $84.5 million he netted in 2009 but still enough to top all the other pay packages we examined.

MATCHUP 11:In what is the closest result so far, Scott McNealy edged out Joe Tucci 60% to 40%.  EMC's performance in 2010 was the "best in company history," said Joe Tucci, who saw his own compensation climb 37% during the same timeframe. The straight-shooting Tucci has been recrafting EMC into one of the industry's megaplayers. He has expanded EMC beyond enterprise storage into a systems management company, as demonstrated by his smart, hands-off approach to the ever more-successful VMware and his acquisition of network management vendor Smarts. Despite his quiet public life since he left Oracle after Sun was bought, his body of work at Sun pulled him through to victory.  

MATCHUP 10: Marc Andreessen's trail of success in starting up companies that provide an impact to the industry got him the victory over Red Hat's Matthew Szulik. Andreessen co-founded Netscape with Jim Clark in 1994 to market Andreessen's creation, the Netscape web browser. Overnight, the young Andreessen was a tech superstar. After public scrapes with Microsoft, Netscape was bought by AOL in 1999 for $4.2 billion. Szulik had his first exposure to freeware, or open source software, when living in Cambridge and attending several lectures by Richard Stallman, the founder of the free software movement and author of the GNU Public License. Szulik became CEO of Red Hat in 1999, shortly after the company went public. He was relieved of his CEO duties in 2007.

MATCHUP 9: As we head into the second half of the first round, Cisco CEO John Chambers garnered 70% of the vote in defeating Ed Whitacre. During Chambers' time at the helm, Cisco has grown into many markets, which has left the company vulnerable to criticism that it is stretching itself too thin. He has recently talked of refocusing the company. Back in 1999, SBC CEO Whitacre was called "one of the savviest leaders in this new age of networks and one of the toughest competitors in the business." He saw the buyout of AT&T in 2005 and retired in 2007

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