Mulally Ends Microsoft CEO Speculation, Says He's Staying At Ford

Ford CEO Alan Mulally, until recently one of the top candidates to succeed Steve Ballmer as Microsoft CEO, is now officially out of the running.

"I would like to end the Microsoft speculation because I have no other plans to do anything other than serve Ford," Mulally told the Associated Press in an interview Tuesday.

Mulally has issued a series of non-denial denials ever since his name was linked to the Microsoft CEO search in September. But early last month, Ford Director Edsel Ford II said Mulally would remain CEO through the end of 2014.

[Related: Microsoft CEO Drama Intensifies As VMware, Qualcomm Execs Surface As Candidates ]

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Microsoft shares took a hit in the wake of Ford's comments, and they dipped 1.7 percent Tuesday in the wake of the AP report.

Microsoft declined comment on the AP report. "Out of respect for the process and the potential candidates, we don't comment on individual names," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email.

Jeff Middleton, a Microsoft MVP (Most Valued Professional) partner based in Metairie, La., told CRN he doesn't think Mulally would have been a good fit for Microsoft.

"I don't consider his experience in building automobiles as a clear indication he knows how to build technologies in the future that don't exist today," Middleton said in an email. "Besides, if his ideas and advice were so good and Ballmer had his ear all these years, why didn't Ballmer make the right decisions?"

Mulally, who has led turnarounds at Ford and Boeing during his 44-year career, doesn't have a background in software, but he could have helped bring fresh perspective to Microsoft, according to Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at ASI Corp, a Fremont, Calif.-based Microsoft partner.

"When you're talking about a company like Microsoft, it's hard to get past the need for having someone with software experience," Tibbils said in an email. "But you can't blame Microsoft for thinking outside the box in looking for [someone] that could help them adjust to a changing competitive environment."

Mulally becomes the second Microsoft CEO candidate to definitively withdraw from the running. Last month, after reports that Microsoft had talked with Qualcomm COO Steve Mollenkopf about the CEO job, Qualcomm named him to succeed current CEO Paul Jacobs, effective in March.

While Microsoft in August gave itself a year to find Ballmer's replacement, its board reportedly expected to conclude its search before the end of 2013. The CEO search is taking longer than expected because some candidates are concerned about the influence that Ballmer and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates may continue to exert as members of Microsoft's board of directors, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.

Microsoft said last month it will choose a new CEO sometime in the early part of this year.