Seattle - Microsoft Corp has a stable of senior executives who could be contenders to succeed Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, even though outsiders have sparked the most discussion so far.
After Ballmer's surprise announcement on Friday that he would retire within a year, the board's lead independent director John Thompson, who heads the search for the new CEO, said the planned transformation of the software giant into a fast-moving 'devices and services' company is still on track.
"It does seem like if they are going to continue down the path of this devices and services strategy that they probably get somebody who was part of formulating this strategy or who can stand fully behind it. I don't know if most outside candidates would be willing to do that," said Sid Parakh, an analyst at fund firm McAdams Wright Ragen.
He expects Microsoft to favour an internal candidate.
But insiders would face skepticism from those who want a clean break from Ballmer's personal legacy, as well as other obstacles.
"The issue with internal candidates is that Microsoft has cultivated a holding-company style culture so very few execs are broadly exposed to all areas of the business," said Al Hilwa, an analyst at tech research firm IDC.
The following is a list of potential internal candidates, with pros and cons, based on conversations with analysts and insiders. All except Raikes and Thompson are executive vice presidents.