Who’s next for Microsoft–what we know today is subject to change tomorrow

What do Bill Gates, Hans Vestberg, John Thompson, John Donahoe, and Alan Mulally have in common? If you don’t know, you’re not alone, and if you don’t follow these circles nobody would blame you. Throw in the name Steve Ballmer and something might ring a bell, but I won’t keep you guessing.

Steve Ballmer has been serving as Chief Executive Officer for Microsoft since June of 1980, and he has said he will be stepping down in 2014. This announcement came out early last year and was put out as “in twelve months.” That time period is growing short. No name has been publicly proclaimed as his successor, but the ones I listed in the first line are all in consideration—yes, even Bill Gates.

Actually, Alan Mulally has said he won’t leave Ford, and there were a couple of others rumored to be on the short list, one from Ebay and one from Nokia. And Bill Gates has said he doesn’t want a full-time role at the company, but he wouldn’t rule out a bit more active participation.

A lot of us figure this can’t come too soon. In the past decade or more, Microsoft has been playing catch-up on every platform, and we were wondering how long Ballmer’s days would be.  Too long for most of us. Microsoft makes good products, they just haven’t made innovative products for a long time. (If you’re an Apple fan, you’re probably saying “ever.” It’s really not true, but Microsoft innovation goes back longer than a lot of Apple folks can remember.) It seems like a lot of today’s computer users probably don’t even remember when Ballmer took over at the helm.

Here’s a quick look at who these folks are:

Bill Gates—former CEO and founder of Microsoft; now out saving the world, very effectively; not surprising he’s not eager to give that up.

Hans Vesberg—CEO of Ericsson

John Thompson—Board member for Microsoft; has expressly expressed DISinterest

John Donahoe—CEO of EBay

Alan Mulally—CEO of Ford—has stated categorically that he is staying at Ford.

Here’s hoping that under new leadership Microsoft will rise to what it could be.  And here’s hoping I don’t have to look at Ballmer much longer, because he always reminded me of Peter Boyle playing the monster in Young Frankenstein. I never could shake that association.

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