To replace Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, a Microsoft search committee plans to sort through a thicket of internal and external candidates. Options include technology visionaries with engineering backgrounds, longtime executives at Microsoft and folks with marketing expertise.
Many analysts suggested Friday that the third CEO of the 38-year-old company must have a mix of all the qualities.
Five top Microsoft executives are expected to be on the list, and choosing one of them could signal where the company will focus its attention immediately after Ballmer exits.
Software-savvy Terry Myerson oversees all of Microsoft’s operating systems while former Yahoo developer Qi Lu handles Bing, Office, Skype and other Web-based product.
Julie Larson-Green focuses on hardware engineering. Former Wal-Mart executive Kevin Turner is the top marketer and the highest-paid executive ($10.7 million in 2011). And Satya Nadella meandered his way through Microsoft to end up the lead on business products.
Another name in the hat is Tony Bates, vice president for business development and evangelism. He left Cisco to become the chief executive of Skype. A few months later in May 2011, Microsoft announced that it would buy the online chatting service for $8.5 billion.
Scott Guthrie could be an inside dark horse. He’s young, wonky and heads the Microsoft division that develops coding frameworks that power a significant number of online services. If he makes the short list, it could be at the expense of Kevin Rudder. Having worked closely with Bill Gates in the past, Rudder helps figure out Microsoft’s approach to future technology.
On the outside, Microsoft could tap executives at competitors such as Google, Yahoo, Cisco and Oracle.
Names that have already been mentioned include former Apple executive Scott Forstall; Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president for engineering; Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg; and Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings. Some analysts brought up the names of people who have retired, including former chief executives Kevin Johnson of Juniper Networks, Sanjay Jha of Motorola Mobility and Lou Gerstner of IBM.
After the Wall Street Journal listed Blake Irving as a candidate, the former Microsoft executive and current chief executive of GoDaddy.com tweeted that “It’s an honor just to be nominated ;).” He later deleted the tweet.
The search committee includes former chiefs John Thompson of Symantec and Chuck Noski of Bank of America along with current Seagate Chief Executive Steve Luczo.