With Ballmer ceding Microsoft’s top job, let the handicapping begin

Mystery man suit question mark

So, Steve Ballmer who’s been  Microsoft CEO for 13 years and with the company for 33, is stepping down — the time frame given is 12 months, but I’m betting it’ll happen ASAP given the current feeling among Microsoft investors. (The stock surged 8 percent at one point Friday morning on the news.) So that begs the question:  Who’s next?

The company’s search committee, chaired by outside director John Thompson (an ex CEO of Symantec who, by all accounts, does not get along with Ballmer) says it will look at internal and external candidates.

Satya Nadella Microsoft

Satya Nadella, President, Server and Tools Division, Microsoft (c) 2013 Pinar Ozger pinar@pinarozger.com

I have already said I think Satya Nadella,  the executive VP of cloud and enterprise, should be on the very short list or prospective CEOs. One current Microsoft exec, who understandably can’t be quoted on this, agreed and added that Tony Bates, the former head of Skype who now heads up biz dev, should also be considered.

Brad Silverberg, founding partner at Ignition Partners, and a former Microsoft senior VP who helped build the Windows juggernaut, thought it might be time for a blast from the past. “Maybe Paul Maritz will ride in a white horse? [Microsoft] is a hard company for an outsider to be successful,” he said via email. Maritz was a long-time Microsoft exec who went on to become CEO of VMware and now Pivotal.

Steven SinofskyOthers speculate that Steven Sinofsky (pictured at right) who left Microsoft abruptly last year and just joined the board at Andreessen Horowitz would be a candidate.

Then there’s the whole Microsoft-will-buy-Nokia-to-boost-its-smartphone-business theory. That would bring Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who was formerly Microsoft Business Division president, back into the fold as a potential CEO.

Thinking beyond Redmond, some posit that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg might make an interesting choice. She sure seems to be looking for new opportunities and a female CEO at Microsoft would be quite interesting.

But hey, your guess is as good as ours. Tell us who you think should lead Microsoft for the next decade or more?

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