Microsoft Whittles Down CEO Candidates, Targets Early 2014 to Make a Decision

The search for a new Chief Operating Officer (CEO) to replace outgoing chief Steve Ballmer at Microsoft continues in earnest, though there won't be a new person in charge in time for New Year's day. Board member John W. Thompson revealed in a blog post that Microsoft is hoping to pin down a final candidate by the early part of next year.

According to Thompson, Microsoft's board initially identified over 100 candidates to succeed Ballmer. After speaking with "several dozen," that list was shrunk down to about 20 "extremely impressive" people. Those candidates are where the focus has been in recent weeks.

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"As you would expect, as this group has narrowed, we've done deeper research and investigation, including with the full board," Thompson stated. "We're moving ahead well, and I expect we'll complete our work in the early part of 2014."

Thompson didn't name any specific candidates for the job, though media reports have identified Ford chief Alan Mulally as a top choice, provided he's interested in making a switch (Mulally is contracted through the end of 2014 at Ford). Ex-Nokia chief Stephen Elop is another name that often comes up, as well as internal executive Satya Nadella, who leads Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise group.

The push into early 2014 is hardly surprising. Ballmer stated in August that he'd stick around for up to a year as Microsoft hunts for a replacement, and more recently, the company has been focused on its Xbox One console launch.