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Report: Microsoft Narrows List of CEO Contenders to Two

Alan Mulally and Satya Nadella have emerged as the two leading candidates to succeed outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, according to a report by Bloomberg on Thursday.

According to the report, Microsoft's CEO search committee is leaning toward Mulally, currently CEO of Ford, and Nadella, who oversees Microsoft's enterprise and cloud business and is well-respected within the company. Internal candidate Tony Bates and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop "remain in the mix" but are less likely to be picked, sources told Bloomberg.

Alan Mulally (left) and Satya Nadella.

The thinking of Microsoft's search committee remains "fluid," according to the report, meaning any candidate could still float to the top. The committee aims to wind down its search by year's end, but the process could go into next year, Bloomberg said.

Based on various reports over the past months, Mulally appears to be the favorite because of the way he parachuted into Ford last decade and brought it back from the brink, despite his newcomer status to the auto industry (he was previously CEO of Boeing, where he rose through the ranks). As noted in September, Mulally has already advised Ballmer and helped him architect the One Microsoft strategy that was modeled, in part, after One Ford.

Mulally's critics argue that his previous successes at Ford do not necessarily mean he can do the same for Microsoft. Many also take issue with Mulally's age (he is 68 years old).

The other issue is his availability. Mulally has not emphatically ruled out heading to Microsoft, but it is also not yet clear whether Mulally wants to, or can, leave Ford in the midst of its own transition.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.