A blog post today by board member John Thompson says the search committee has boiled down the candidates from more than 100 to about 20, but that it needs more time to pick the winner.
+ Also on Network World: Top 6 Microsoft insider CEO candidates | Perceived missteps may have hit a tipping point for Ballmer | Steve Ballmer said what? (Quiz) +
"After defining our criteria, we initially cast a wide net across a number of different industries and skill sets," says Thompson, who is running the search committee. "As you would expect, as this group has narrowed, we've done deeper research and investigation, including with the full Board. We're moving ahead well, and I expect we'll complete our work in the early part of 2014."
He pointed to Microsoft founder Bill Gates's description of the task at the company shareholder meeting last month. "He noted that this is a complex role to fill, involving a complex business model and the ability to lead a highly technical organization and work with top technical talent," Thompson says.
The speculation about who might be on the short list of candidates has been rampant. Just this week the name of Qualcomm COO Steve Mollenkopf popped up the same day that he was named Qualcomm's new CEO to replace Paul Jacobs.
The most loudly touted possibility has been Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who has been coy, saying only that he has promised Ford to stay on until the end of next year and that is still his plan, but not saying he's not going to be CEO of Microsoft. With this announcement by Thompson, it could be Mulally is among the 20 contenders and doesn't know any more than that.
When Ballmer announced his retirement in August, he said a replacement would be named within 12 months, so the process is still on track.
Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.
Read more about software in Network World's Software section.