Call it keeping up with the Jones, but since other media outlets have seized on the rather insignificant news that Microsoft has cut its original list of 40-plus CEO candidates down to perhaps eight, we thought we'd jump on the bandwagon as well and provide a quick note on it.
Here is what we know as of this morning. Microsoft has now trimmed both its external and internal candidate list down to five external candidates and three internal execs.
We know for certain that Nokia's (and soon to be a Microsoftee again) Stephen Elop remains in the running. He's a young guy, knows his smartphones, clearly saw Nokia to the other side of delivering a rather spiffy new Windows RT-based tablet, and has seen Nokia significantly up the overall quality of its products. The Lumia 1020 41 MP device is mighty cool. Our only real problem with Elop, who also benefits from already knowing how Microsoft works internally, is that we've never liked Nokia's Lumia marketing efforts. Can Elop drive a world class marketing team?
Ford CEO Alan Mulally is still in the running and we believe he would deliver what Microsoft needs - a powerful focus on tomorrow's world while still also championing all of the divisions that still deliver on all the record revenue. The problem with Mulally is not, as we see it, that he is still Ford's CEO and may not be predisposed to leave (Microsoft will make it well worth his financial while to do so) but that he is, well, 68. He doesn't look 68, but perhaps rather than looking to accept the challenge Microsoft puts on the table he might be nearing a time to go sailing in the Azores we have no idea how he likes to relax - but sailing in the Azores sounds pretty good to us).
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Very possibly, but not certainly, the board may also be considering "turnaround specialist" Mike Lawrie, Computer Sciences' CEO. We surely hope not!
Internally, there are apparently three execs, but we are only certain of two of them. Satya Nadella, who now runs Microsoft's cloud and enterprise groups, is definitely known to be in the running. Nadella runs critical businesses for Microsoft, and there is no denying that the cloud operation in particular is a huge present and future revenue segment for Microsoft. But alas, this is "old school" Microsoft and we simply do not see Nadella as the mobile visionary Microsoft needs.
We also know for certain that Tony Bates, who was Skype's CEO when Microsoft acquired it two years ago, is also still in the running. As part of Ballmer's recent re-org efforts (that Mulally was apparently consulted on) Bates was recently promoted and now heads up Microsoft's business development and overall strategy. In his current role Bates obviously has had to tackle moving Microsoft forward into tomorrow's world, so he at least has some sort of handle on, at the very least, Microsoft's current plans for its short and longer term future.
Can Bates transcend these plans (which Ballmer of course also had a heavy hand in) to deliver on his own unique vision - and have the ability to rally an entire company around them? Flipping a coin gives the right odds on any sense we have of his being able to do so.
Our guess is that if other candidate names aren't already well known to us they probably are not really in the running. We'll leave it there. Microsoft does want to have the search concluded before the year is out, so we should expect additional weaning of the list details ongoing.
We suspect it will come down, ultimately, to a choice between Mulally and Elop.
TechZone360 Senior Editor
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