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Microsoft CEO search goes internal as Nadella, Bates and Elop top the list

Microsoft’s search for a new CEO is likely to enter February as rumours swirl that it has again begun to focus on internal candidates including Satya Nadella, Tony Bates and Stephen Elop.

A source close to the firm told Reuters that an appointment won’t be made until the last week of January at the earliest and is most likely to take place in February with a handful of candidates headed by Nadella, Bates and the soon-to-be-arriving Elop.

The news that Microsoft is poised to appoint an internal candidate comes after Alan Mulally, previously thought to be in pole position to take the job, stated that he would be staying with his current employers, Ford Motor Co, for 2014.

Analysts are split on which horse they are backing with FBR analyst Daniel Ives quoted by Reuters as stating that Elop is “front and centre” in the CEO stakes due to his “previous Microsoft experience and demonstrable expertise in the mobile space.”

Meanwhile Evercore analyst Kirk Materne has other ideas and name-checked Nadella and Bates as candidates that “could potentially institute organisational change at a more rapid pace given their inside status.”

Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund, on the other hand, stated that Nadella and Bates were both capable but warned they are "more likely to take direction from Microsoft's board rather than redirect the board and take the company in a different direction as we prefer."

Nadella is currently Microsoft’s executive VP of Cloud & Enterprise whereas Bates is the executive VP for Business Development and Evangelism. Elop, formerly a Microsoft executive, is arriving back at the company after the company he headed, Nokia, was sold to Microsoft in September 2013.

The search for the new CEO began back in August 2013 after the long-time incumbent Steve Ballmer decided to retire and hand the reins over to help the company embrace its new position as a devices and services firm.