The List of Microsoft’s Potential Next-CEOs Shrinks to Two Candidates

The Choice of Next Microsoft Chief Executive Enters Home Straight

by Anton Shilov
11/28/2013 | 11:55 PM

The search for the next chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp. is officially still ongoing in a big way, but unofficial sources indicate that the search is nearly over as only two major candidates are now considered. One external and one internal, both seem to be valuable for Microsoft, but who will actually be chosen is a complete mystery.


Microsoft’s board of directors is focusing on Alan Mulally (current chief exec of Ford Motor Co.) and Satya Nadella, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group, responsible for building and running the company’s computing platforms, developer tools and cloud services, according to Bloomberg news-agency.

In general, the BOD of the world’s largest software developer left itself two, generally similar, options: reshape the company with a CEO from another world, which would clearly improve financial positions of Microsoft; remake the company from the inside with a person featuring deep knowledge Microsoft, but having experience in areas that historically used to be outside of Microsoft’s core interests.

Alan Mulally has successfully reshaped Ford’s management and even avoided federal bailout in 2009. He is considered as Microsoft’s Louis Gerstner (a former IBM chief exec that dramatically changed the company during his tenure), who, without a lot of emotions, would reform the company in a way to make it more sustainable and to enable future growth. It is obvious that Mr. Mullaly will have the best advisors that even exist, but it also clear that he would never be able to control the whole process of new products development. Moreover, Mr. Mulally is 68 years old and cannot be far off retirement.

Satya Nadella, executive vice president of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group, is responsible for building and running the company’s computing platforms, developer tools and cloud services. Mr. Nadella and his team deliver the “Cloud OS”, Microsoft’s next generation backend platform, which is designed for modern application needs across all types of customers and types of use. In general, Mr. Nadella is shaping the future of the software in general, but may feature a number of emotions regarding Microsoft as a company that the BoD may not consider as an advantage.

Jon Peddie, the head of Jon Peddie Research who has been analyzing the computer market for several decades, 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.

Microsoft is in process of a major transition these days and its future direction is pretty much clear: the world’s largest software maker’s strategy will focus on creating a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses. Creation of such products and services should not be a problem, the company has a lot of internal talent and a lot of money. What Microsoft does need is to roll-out competitive products and services on time and not be afraid of competing with its traditional customers among hardware makers.