Microsoft has finally spoken out about its hunt for a new chief executive, claiming a new leader will be in place in the "early part of 2014".
Since current leader Steve Ballmer announced his imminent retirement back in the summer, the rumour mill has been working overtime over possible candidates, but Microsoft has kept quiet on its search until now.
Board member and search leader John Thompson said the company was pleased with the progress it is making. Analysts have suggested the vendor ought to move quickly in order to maintain stability at the vendor, but when Ballmer declared his intention to step down, he said he would stay on for up to 12 months while a replacement was found.
In the blog post, Thompson said the search for a replacement has been extremely thorough.
"The board has taken the thoughtful approach that our shareholders, customers, partners and employees expect and deserve," he said. "After defining our criteria, we initially cast a wide net across a number of different industries and skill sets."
He said Microsoft initially made a list of 100 possible candidates, spoke with several dozen on that list and then thought hard about a shortlist of 20 people – all of whom it claims were "extremely impressive" in their own right.
"As you would expect, as this group has narrowed, we have done deeper research and investigation, including with the full board," he added. "We are moving ahead well, and I expect we'll complete our work in the early part of 2014."
Thompson added that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates had recently updated the board on the CEO search's progress, stressing the role was a complex one for which candidates needed "the ability to lead a highly technical organisation and work with top technical talent".
Thompson declined to respond to rumours linking a handful of names to the top job in the blog post, but did say they had been searching both internally and externally.
Microsoft Skype boss Tony Bates and cloud and enterprise leader Satya Nadella have been linked to the role along with outsiders Stephen Elop – former Office leader and now Nokia boss – and Ford boss Alan Mulally. More recently, some analysts mooted VMware leader and former Intel boss Pat Gelsinger as a possible replacement too.
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