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Report: Microsoft Whittles Down CEO Shortlist To Five Candidates

Microsoft has cut down its original list of 40 candidates to replace Steve Ballmer to about five, according to a report. What's surprising is that three internal people are said to be in the mix.

The shortlist includes external candidates like Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, as well as three internal candidates, according to Reuters.

One of the internal candidates is Satya Nadella, a 22-year Microsoft exec who has been leading Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Engineering Group, which was formed in the company's July re-organization. Previously, Nadella ran the $19 billion Server and Tools unit.

[Related: Report: Microsoft Aiming To Sell 16 Million Windows Tablets This Holiday Season ]

During a Q&A at an event in San Francisco last month, Nadella dodged a question about whether he'd be interested in becoming the next Microsoft CEO, saying only that "Steve is the CEO, and I'm excited about my job."

According to Reuters, another internal candidate in the running is Tony Bates, the former Skype CEO and Cisco executive who joined Microsoft in 2011. In the re-organization, Bates was tapped to lead Microsoft's Business Development and Evangelism Group, leading partnerships with OEMs, chip vendors, third-party developers and relations with Nokia and Yahoo, among other duties.

Bates is also in charge of Microsoft's Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE) unit, which works to get software developers excited about building apps using Microsoft tools. Lately, it's been reaching out to non-Microsoft developers, too.

Reuters said the name of the third internal candidates wouldn't be learned. Microsoft couldn't be reached for comment.

In September, AllThingsD reported that Mulally had emerged as the front-runner to replace Ballmer, who announced in August his intention to step down as CEO within 12 months. According to AllThingsD, Mulally advised Ballmer on Microsoft's July reorganization, and as former CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, he's keen on returning to the Seattle region.

Joe Balsarotti, president of Software To Go, a St. Peters, Mo.-based Microsoft partner, said he thinks Mulally's track record at Ford and Boeing would be a good fit for Microsoft.

"He's proven he can get companies focused and profitable, with everyone pulling in the same direction. Microsoft could certainly benefit from that," Balsarotti said in an email.

However, some Microsoft partners would prefer to see Microsoft hire someone with a more technical, consumer-oriented background. While Elop is said to be in the mix, his track record at Nokia hasn't been stellar.

Microsoft's CEO search committee is considering candidates from a "wide range of sectors, including life sciences and consumer," according to the Reuters report Wednesday.


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