Robert Bach

President, entertainment and devices, Microsoft

Impact: Businesses such as videogames, digital downloads and mobile are all relatively young and brutally competitive, which is why Bach’s unit has lost Microsoft billions of dollars. But they’re also viewed internally as key to the company’s future, which is why it’s investing billions more.

Aided by execs like vidgame biz head Don Mattrick, digital music topper J Allard and Blair Westlake, Microsoft’s emissary to Hollywood, Bach has built a number of businesses from scratch in the last few years, all of which have grown significantly and still have far to go. Microsoft had one of the biggest vidgame hits of the year with “Halo 3” as well as one of the biggest embarrassments, as frequent Xbox 360 hardware failures forced the company to take a $1billion-plus writeoff.

Xbox Live Video Marketplace, the year-old service that lets gamers download movies and TV shows directly to the console, has signed up most major studios and is widely viewed as the only success story in the space outside of iTunes.

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Zune, the digital music player and service Microsoft launched in late 2006, has failed to catch fire, but a new line of Zune players was released and the platform can at least claim to be No. 2 behind Apple. Bach remains committed to the brand as a multiyear investment.

With a broad number of initiatives in their early stages — from digital music in cars to IPTV to the Windows Media Center — Bach’s challenge isn’t just to get people using Microsoft media products and services, but joining them into the kind of ecosystem that has made Windows PC ubiquitous.

POV: “I’ve talked a lot about this notion of a connected entertainment world that we are beginning to deliver on, where you can have access to your media — music, video, photos, games — wherever you are and on whatever device you want, whether it is a PC, an Xbox, a Zune, a phone.”