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Stephen Elop's rise to Microsoft CEO seen as ‘less likely’

Stephen Elop's rise to Microsoft CEO seen as ‘less likely’

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Microsoft appears to be narrowing its CEO search even further. The software maker previously reportedly shortlisted Ford CEO Alan Mulally, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, Microsoft cloud boss Satya Nadella, and former Skype president Tony Bates. Bloomberg News now reports that Microsoft’s board is focusing on Mulally and Nadella. Bates and Elop are said to remain potential candidates, but they’re both "less likely" to be offered the position.

While Mulally appears to be the favorite to succeed Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, recent speculation suggests that the 68-year-old could be more of a "caretaker" CEO to guide Microsoft in the right direction before an internal candidate is ready to take over. Ford continues to dismiss the Mulally rumors. "There is no change from what we announced last November," said a Ford spokesperson in a statement issued to Bloomberg News. "Alan remains completely focused on executing our One Ford plan. We do not engage in speculation."

Elop reportedly open to killing Bing and selling Xbox

Elop had been considered a strong favorite, with recent speculation suggesting he would consider a strategy shift at Microsoft if he secured the CEO position. Elop’s potential strategy is said to involve maximizing sales of Office instead of using it to push Windows PC and tablet sales — pushing Office on rival iOS and Android platforms. Bloomberg News also previously reported that Elop would be willing to shut down or sell some major Microsoft businesses. Elop would reportedly considering killing off the company’s Bing search engine, while contemplating selling the Xbox business. Both suggestions seem unlikely considering how closely Microsoft is integrating Xbox and Bing into its various products.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates recently provided an update on the company’s CEO search, noting that it’s a "complex role to fill." Gates acknowledged that Microsoft is interviewing internal and external candidates, before holding back tears while thanking Steve Ballmer for his work at the company. Ballmer has led Microsoft over the past 13 years, but he recently admitted the company needs a new leader for change. "Maybe I'm an emblem of an old era, and I have to move on," Ballmer said to the WSJ. "As much as I love everything about what I'm doing," he says, "the best way for Microsoft to enter a new era is a new leader who will accelerate change." Ballmer plans to retire within the next nine months, with Microsoft pushing to appoint a new CEO soon.