Microsoft's next CEO: Some last-minute musings

As Microsoft's search for its next CEO continues, new rumors and reports abound.

Mary Jo Foley
Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network.
Mary Jo Foley
2 min read
Ford CEO Alan Mulally is said to be one of the top candidates to replace Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. CBS News

The rumor mill is abuzz with renewed speculation on who Microsoft's next CEO will be.

Reuters is reporting that the Ford board of directors, meeting on Thursday, will pressure CEO Alan Mulally -- if he shows up, that is -- to answer directly whether he's in the running to replace outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Mulally's handlers have been in non-denial denial mode.

The Ford board allegedly wants a more definitive statement. The reason, as Reuters reports, citing "one source close to Ford's board": "People don't write about Mustang, they don't write about earnings, they write about Mulally."

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger VMware

AllThingsD's Kara Swisher, who had been one of the first to publicly predict Mulally was the lead candidate on Microsoft's next-CEO list, delivered a new prediction today: VMware's CEO Pat Gelsinger.

Former Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Hal Berenson, author of the insightful Hal2020 blog, weighed in with his own guess on Microsoft's leadership plans. Berenson said he is expecting Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates could step down as board chair in a year, with Mulally taking up that spot.

Oh yeah, and just to add one more rumor to the pile, some are wondering about the coincidental timing (or not) of former Microsoft Server and Tools chief Bob Muglia's departure from his executive vice president post at Juniper Networks earlier this week. Might Muglia be coming back to Microsoft for a bigger job? (My gut says no on that one.)

The reason Mulally's been considered a strong candidate for Microsoft CEO -- for those who are wondering -- is Ballmer consulted him for management advice. As others have pointed out, the "One Ford" strategy championed by Mulally bears a passing resemblance on many fronts to the "One Microsoft" strategy espoused by Ballmer. One Ford is all about "one team, one plan, one goal." If you're curious about Mulally's high-level management thinking, check out this recent McKinsey & Co. interview with him.

Might Microsoft go the dual-CEO route? Might they opt for a senior, high-profile manager to work hand-in-hand with a tech visionary type? Might a consumer-focused CEO and an enterprise-focused one be appointed in tandem?

As I've said before, I admit I have no idea who is in the lead for consideration as Microsoft's next CEO or when that person will be named. I don't know if or when Gates plans to step down as chair. And I'm not sure anyone beyond the Microsoft search committee has any real idea at this point, either.

This story originally appeared as "Mulling Mulally's chances as Microsoft's next CEO" on ZDNet.

Muglia talking up the Windows Azure platform to attendees of Microsoft's PDC conference in 2010.
Bob Muglia, former Microsoft Server and Tools chief, recently left his post at Juniper Networks. Josh Lowensohn/CNET