Microsoft to pick Ballmer successor by early next year

Microsoft yesterday said its executive search committee expected to pick CEO Steve Ballmer's successor by early next year. According to commentators, the decision could set out two strikingly different paths for future of the software giant.

The company's search committee said, over a 100 possible candidates had been identified for the role. Board member John Thompson said the committee, which included chairman Bill Gates, had talks with "several dozen" and focused its energy on a group of "about 20 individuals" as potential successors to Ballmer.

With the PC market in decline, the committee has reportedly considered former Microsoft executives, current insiders as also marquee business executives to set the company's future course in a new mobile frontier.

"We're moving ahead well, and I expect we'll complete our work in the early part of 2014," Thompson said on Microsoft's blog.

Though Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally and Qualcomm's recently named CEO, Steve Mollenkopf, had at one time been billed as top contenders, they seem to be no longer among the more likely contenders to replace CEO Steve Ballmer.

Commentators say Microsoft could either hire a product visionary or a professional manager.

According to commentators the timeline underscored the hurdles of finding a new leader for the world's biggest software maker.

Ballmer said in August that he planned to retire within a year, but without a succession plan in place, the board was working in the direction of finding a successor as early as the end of this year, Bloomberg reported citing sources.

It added EBay CEO John Donahoe and former VMware CEO Paul Maritz declined to be considered.

Other candidates under consideration include Microsoft's cloud-computing chief Satya Nadella, executive vice president Tony Bates and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, according to the people. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said at the company's shareholder meeting, last month, that he and other directors had met with ''a lot of CEO candidates'' and that ''it's a complex role to fill.''

According to commentators, the software maker was going through its biggest transition in decades, as it sought a new leader while adopting a new corporate structure focused on devices and services.