Steve Ballmer will no longer be at the head of Microsoft once 2013 comes to an end, meaning that the company is hastily looking for a new CEO. The list of potential candidates used to stand at 40, but according to a new report, Microsoft has finally cut it down to just five, including Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Nokia CEO Stephen Elop.
Mulally and Elop have reportedly been in the running since before Ballmer even announced publicly that he was stepping down. Both candidates make sense since Nokia's Elop is directly connected to Microsoft -- Nokia was acquired by Microsoft in September, and before Nokia he was a Microsoft executive -- and Ford's Mulally worked closely with Ballmer as Ballmer laid out his plan to restructure Microsoft earlier this year.
Although the latest list of candidates is far smaller than it was, Microsoft is still targeting high-profile CEOs to lead the company. However, analysts are now suggesting that Microsoft may end up staying internal or at least close to the company once it comes down to choosing a new leader.
Bill Gates, Microsoft's co-founder and board member, has been tossed around as a possibility but it is unlikely that he would step up to take over the company after many years of retirement (he is now focused on philanthropic work.)
Outside of Mulally and Elop, who seem to be the most viable candidates, Skype CEO Tony Bates and Microsoft's head of Enterprise and Cloud services Satya Nadella also survived the cut and made it onto the top five list. Staying internal may be the best option for Microsoft as acquiring a high-profile CEO of another mainstream company is not going to be easy. Mulally has already stated that he is focused on Ford and does not seem to be interested in the Microsoft position.
Microsoft has been turning itself around, albeit slowly, for the past few months and will seek out a CEO who is good at bringing back companies from "the edge." Mulally is the only CEO who has shown an ability to turn a company around, as Ford was one of the few companies to come out of the auto manufacturing crash without help from the government.
Ballmer Will Be Missed
Without a doubt, Microsoft dealt with numerous issues and made some horrible decisions with Ballmer as CEO. However, individual employees have never lost their love for Ballmer, who has always been one of the most enthusiastic and uplifting CEOs imaginable.
Microsoft's transition to a "devices and services" company has been plagued by bad product launches. While it may work out in the long run, Ballmer's decision to come out with products such as the Surface tablets has been a topic of debate as to whether or not it was a good move.
No matter who takes over the company, they will likely be better from a business point of view, but no CEO will ever be able to excite and energize a company in the same way Ballmer did.