Microsoft Down to Just 8 CEO Candidates

…and I don’t care if you DID print your resume on hot pink, triple bond paper…


I’ve been calling for it for years, because despite the fact that Ballmer is a really nice guy, he just doesn’t get mobile computing; but Microsoft has been hard at work. Despite the fact that the talk has died down, Microsoft is still actively searching for a new CEO. In fact, they’re down to about eight candidates – 5 external and 3 internal.

Its kinda interesting, as many people – me included – thought this was a done deal a couple different times. However, MS did the right thing and took the spotlight off the activity and quietly whittled the list down to a few candidates.  They include the following people:

External Candidates Include:

  • Ford CEO Alan Mulally
    Microsoft needs a success story candidate, and that’s Mulally. Ford had been in need of an image and financial make over, and Mulally delivered. Ford’s stock has done well in the recent past and the work they’ve done related to automotive connectivity with Sync and major smartphone carriers shows that Mulally understands mobility; and that’s something that Microsoft needs.  Mulally is also one of Ballmer’s go-to advisors as I understand it, so he is at least familiar with what is going on with Microsoft, its challenges and problems. As much as I think other candidates might be a better fit, Mulally may actually be what Microsoft needs.
  • Nokia CEO Stephen Elop
    Elop left Microsoft to join Nokia.  Just a short while later, Microsoft acquired the smartphone business from Nokia, bringing Elop back to Redmond. Elop understands mobility and mobile computing; and Nokia’s been the flagship Windows Phone maker for a while now. On paper, Elop is the candidate that makes the most sense. However, other external candidates have firsthand experience in pulling a troubled company out of murky water before the swirl gets impossible to handle. I want to want Elop for this role, but the more that I think about it, Mulally makes the most sense.
  • Three other, unnamed external candidates
    Reuters, who is the source here, did not have any additional information on external candidates.  Your guess is as good as mine here.

Internal Candidates Include:

  • Former Skype CEO Tony Bates
    Skye is a mobile communications company and Bates did a great job in building Skype into a popular must have internet property that Microsoft swallowed up and now has as the backbone of its Communications platform. Anyone that can do that, certainly has enough vision to turn Microsoft around.
  • Cloud and Enterprise chief Satya Nadella
    Nadella brought us Azure and helped reinvent SkyDrive. His star has been on the rise at Microsoft for quite some time, and while there may not be as much known about him as Tony Bates, Stephen Elop or Alan Mulally, I think Satya Nadella is the leading internal candidate at Microsoft for the vacating CEO chair. He’s continually brought value to the company, his focus with cloud and enterprise at MS will be a key foundation point in any new mobility or mobile strategy, and there isn’t a lot known about him, meaning that the market and the industry won’t be distracted by any back story developments or questions that would develop now that he’s left (Ford or Nokia) one company or is back in the CEO chair.
  • One other, unnamed internal candidate
    Again, Reuters didn’t have any information on who the last internal candidate might be, and didn’t speculate at all. I, however, think it may be Julie Larson-Green.  She’s the new EVP of Microsoft’s Devices and Studio group and has been with the organization since 1993. She has history; and has drive and vision.  As the only (real) female candidate that I know or have heard of, I think she has a decent chance in the race.  Putting a woman in charge would be a popular and trending play for Microsoft, who desperately needs as much positive spin on their next public move as they can get.

Many people have speculated that Bill Gates would come back as CEO and pull Microsoft out of the gutter. I don’t see this happening and there’s no credible source that I can find that would suggest that Gates is making another run for the corner office on Microsoft’s executive floor.

Who do you think should sit in the captain’s chair at Microsoft? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the discussion, below.

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