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From Apple to Google: Face it, you needed these guys

CNBC is celebrating its first 25 years by looking back on the top 200 businesspeople who have had the greatest influence, sparked the biggest changes and caused the most disruption in business over the past quarter century. "The Kudlow Report" staff shares its picks for the top contenders. Cast your vote here!

Andy Grove, former chairman and CEO of Intel

Tony Avelar | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Without semiconductors, and the dizzying and constant race to make them smaller or faster, we wouldn't have personal computers, the Internet, cell phones, GPS—you name it.

Andy Grove, the man who pioneered the chip industry and created what we know today as Intel, stands as a giant in our modern world.

Grove overcame tremendous hurdles. Scarlet fever as a preschooler almost killed him and left him deaf in one ear. At age 8, he and his Jewish family escaped the Nazis as they deported Jews in Hungary to the death camps. At 20, he escaped the Soviet Communist takeover of Hungary.

He didn't found Intel, but he was the one who made it a success. And it was his charismatic and innovative approach to workplace culture that was the inspiration for the new age work spaces we see today at Google, eBay and the rest of the leading tech companies.

Without Andy Grove, there would never be a Steve Jobs, a Bill Gates, a Sergey Brin, a Mark Zuckerberg … and the list goes on.

—By CNBC's Jake Novak, supervising producer. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny

Shawn Fanning, founder of Napster

Shawn Fanning, founder of Napster.
John G. Mabanglo | AFP | Getty Images
Shawn Fanning, founder of Napster.

When my 3-year-old asks to hear a certain song, all I have to do is type a few words, and 20 seconds later he's dancing around the living room.

He will never experience those days when you either had to buy a physical album or sit by the radio to listen to a song.

Eventually we will live in a world where you can listen to any song, watch any TV show or movie on any device whenever you want.

Content providers were against this, but Shawn Fanning dragged them kicking and screaming into this brave new world when he created Napster.

Sure it was illegal—we know that now!—but it revolutionized the world of entertainment. And that's why Shawn Fanning gets my vote.

—By Paul Amin, line producer.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, founders of Google

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, founders of Google, in 2004
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Sergey Brin and Larry Page, founders of Google, in 2004

Yes, credit Steve Jobs and Apple for developing such market-disruptive technologies as the iPod, iPhone and iTunes, all of which transformed the role technology plays in global life. But when it comes to the revolutionary changes in how consumers exchange digital information and knowledge and how advertisers and retailers reach consumers, that credit goes to the Google guys: Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Whether it's Internet searching, Web advertising or online and mobile digital communication, Google has developed into a dominant global brand 16 years after its founding. In fact, Google is now home to more than 12 billion Internet searches every month and accounts for nearly 70 percent of the U.S. Web search market, making it the world's second most valuable brand, according to Interbrand's Best Global Brands 2013 table.

That's why the Google guys get my vote, and if you don't believe me, just Google it!

—By Ben Thompson, senior segment producer. Follow him on Twitter @BenThompson00

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

I cannot live without my iPhone. There, I said it!

Many thanks to Steve Jobs for creating this innovative little personal assistant that fits in my hand.

Think about it: How much more convenient is life because of your iPhone? I'm not a celebrity with a team of personal assistants to organize my day, but the iPhone gets me a little closer to that lifestyle. Daily life without it would require a photographer, a banker, a librarian, a wake-up call every morning, a musician, a researcher, a cartographer, a mathematician … OK, you get the point!

So I tip my hat to the late Steve Jobs for disrupting our lives for the better with this perfect little smartphone.

—By Bree Kelly, producer. Follow her on Twitter @Bree_Kelly

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series
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J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series

With her unforgettable Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling gave me a vast fantasy world to escape to while the author simultaneously built a massive media empire for herself.

The series of books and movies spanned nearly my entire childhood, age 5 to 19, and a good portion of that time was spent waiting for Rowling's next installment. It seems I was always counting down to something, be it the next book release or the next midnight movie premiere.

And as I grew up, so did Harry and his friends. What started as a story about wizards, spells and dragons ended with lessons about friendship, mortality and love. It is hard to deny the impact those books had as both an emotional journey and a cultural phenomenon.

Rowling's generation-defining series impacted not only literature but movies, theme parks and soon theater. Harry Potter changed the boundaries for what young adult literature could be and set a bar for books and movies that has yet to be surpassed.

—By Ross LeClair, associate producer. Follow him on Twitter @rossLeClair

John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios

John Lasseter
Getty Images
John Lasseter

When I left the movie theater on Nov. 22, 1995, I declared that "Toy Story" was the best movie I would ever see in my lifetime.

"Toy Story" was also the first movie I had ever seen in a movie theater, but to this day it remains among my 10 favorite films.

John Lasseter continues to set the bar for animated films, directing "A Bug's Life" and "Toy Story 2" and overseeing other excellent Pixar films, such as "Monsters, Inc.," "Finding Nemo" and "Up."

While Lasseter will always be primarily remembered for his work to introduce 3-D animated films, his excellent storytelling has taught important lessons—from the value of friendship to the importance of humility to millions of children.

—By Matthew Goldwater, news associate. Follow him on Twitter @MattJGoldwater

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