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Here's everything we've heard about the Microsoft CEO search since it started
Today, Microsoft board member John Thompson posted that the company had made "progress" on the search to replace CEO Steve Ballmer, who surprised Microsoft-watchers by announcing his retirement on August 23. (Ballmer had said numerous times that he'd stick around until 2017 or so.)
Thompson said that Microsoft had started with a list of 100 candidates, narrowed them down to about 20 interview subjects, then winnowed them further to an unnamed number. "I expect we’ll complete our work in the early part of 2014," he concluded. Cue sighs of relief from bloggers and business journalists everywhere -- now we can spend the holidays without checking our Twitter feed every five minutes to make sure we don't miss the announcement.
With this announcement, it seemed like a good time to look at the rumors that have cropped up over the last few months -- both from official news sources and rumors on the Silicon Valley cocktail party circuit.
Insiders: Satya Nadella seems to have emerged as the leading internal candidate, according to reports from AllThingsD, Bloomberg, and others. Nadella has a good combined consumer-enterprise pedigree -- he ran Bing before coming over to lead enterprise servers and more recently the new Cloud & Enterprise group, which was created under Ballmer's final One Microsoft reorg. He's also got a good understanding of how the whole company works and the One Microsoft vision -- at a recent meeting for financial analysts, he talked about his own business, like the other execs, then put it into context with what some of the other folks talked about. Ace Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley interviewed Nadella a couple days ago, and he gave some pretty good insights into how Microsoft works (for instance, Ballmer and Gates expect you to defend your ideas against aggressive challenges), but no insight into the CEO search. But in recent days, I've heard from two people who follow Microsoft that Nadella will not be the candidate, so go figure.
Over at AllThingsD, Kara Swisher -- who's done extensive reporting on the CEO hunt since it started -- still thinks former Skype CEO Tony Bates has a good chance, an opinion shared by Infoworld's Woody Leonhard, who suspects the last round of speculation about Bates was started as a trial balloon by Microsoft's PR team. (Maybe. I tend to think most of these leaks start with the financial community.) COO Kevin Turner was also named in a Bloomberg report, although I'd be stunned if he got the job -- he comes from outside Microsoft (Wal-Mart) and is not a technical or product visionary.
As far as I can tell, there haven't been any other credible rumors about internal candidates, although I'd be surprised if services boss Qi Lu (a former Yahoo exec who ran Bing since Nadella moved over) and devices chief Julie Larson-Green were not in the initial list of 100, at least.
The car guy: Update 1/9/2013: Mulally has officially removed himself from the running, and has said he'll remain at Ford through 2014. The Wall Street Journal reports that he was considering the job, but was concerned about leaks he thought were coming from the board, as well as with Bill Gates's continued involvement.
The external name that keeps cropping up is Ford CEO and former Boeing chief Alan Mulally, who met with Ballmer at a Starbucks on Christmas Eve 2012 for an advisory session, the Wall Street Journal reported. When asked about the job, Mulally has given a series of non-denial denials, although director Edsel Ford said Mulally was not leaving the company before the end of 2014.