Steve Ballmer Confirms Stephen Elop as Next Microsoft Chief Exec Candidate

Microsoft CEO Welcomes Nokia Hardware Specialists to Microsoft

by Anton Shilov
09/03/2013 | 11:25 PM



Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., confirmed in an interview that he and the board of directors consider Stephen Elop, a former chief executive officer of Nokia Corp. who is believed to be responsible for the company’s dramatic decline of market share. Last week bookmakers assumed that Mr. Elop has the highest chances to become the next CEO of Microsoft.

With the acquisition of mobile phone and smartphone business from Nokia, Stephen Elop will rejoin Microsoft by the end of the first quarter of 2014 as a vice president and will therefore become an internal candidate to come to be the next chief exec of the software giant. In many ways, his career will depend on how successfully he and his colleagues integrates what remains of Nokia’s team into Microsoft.

“Stephen will go from external [candidate] to internal. The board will continue [to look at] all appropriate candidates through that process,” said Mr. Ballmer in an interview with the Seattle Times.

Last week Ladbrokes, the largest betting company in the UK and the largest retail bookmaker in the world, has published its official odds in the race to run the world’s largest software development. The top three favourites are Stephen Elop (at 5/1), Stephen Turner (6/1) and Steve Sinofsky (8/1). All three are either current (like Stephen Turner, who is COO of Microsoft) or former employees of Microsoft.

Microsoft’s next chief executive needs to finalize ongoing transitions, e.g., focus on creating a family of devices, services and programs for individuals and businesses. Jon Peddie, the head of Jon Peddie Research, believes that Microsoft does not necessarily require a new visionary – like Bill Gates – on the role of chief executive officer, but rather needs a business executive who will recognize potentially profitable products and technologies at the early stages of development and will not hold the company back.

Stephen Elop most recently was the head of a hardware company, but he does have experience of working at the software giant. Theoretically, Mr. Elop could lead Microsoft to develop hardware products that will be competitive on the market, but will fiercely compete against existing customers of Microsoft. Several big caveats that Mr. Elop has is that his current team has not developed a single truly popular product during his tenure at Nokia, just like his Microsoft colleagues he missed the rise of media tablets (and will likely miss the emergence of wearable computing gadgets) and he also picked up the least competitive mobile operating system (Windows Phone) for Nokia.

Microsoft said its current chief executive Steve Ballmer will retire within the next twelve months. The company vows to find the replacement before Mr. Ballmer leaves.