July 3, 2012 Update: Microsoft announced a new tablet, Surface, that got people saying they were going to be able to take a bigger bite out of Apple. Mattrick and Xbox aren't exactly a part of the Surface world, but the Xbox is clearly an increasingly integral part of all of Microsoft business. Combine that with positive buzz on Microsoft's code-named Durango successor the Xbox 360 and a solid if non-revolutionary E3, and Mattrick can consider the gap between him and Cook narrowed.
Feb 20, 2012 Update: Strong holiday sales of the Xbox 360 allowed Mattrick's team to brag that the Xbox 360 ended 2011 as the hottest-selling home console of the year.
Why He's Powerful
Don Mattrick is Mr. Xbox and the president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business. That means he's got the top gaming console in the United States right now, the one that used to primarily be a Halo and Call of Duty-playing device.
Now, the Xbox 360 is this thing that about 15 million people plug Kinect sensors into and that 40 million use for Xbox Live. It's a Netflix streaming device, a UFC viewing portal, and, if you buy Microsoft's marketing, it's a voice-controlled futuristic machine for watching and participating in interactive versions of Sesame Street.
Mattrick's Xbox portfolio is impressive, though it's thin on in-house development studios. His crown jewel is the untested 343 Industries who are hoping to make this fall's Halo 4 return Master Chief's series to its former glory. Microsoft mostly depends on third-party developers to make Xbox hits and pays those people extra to put some of their content on Xbox first. Right now, who'd say no to Microsoft's money?
Bonus power factor: Mattrick has an awesome house.