Let’s Hear It: Are Gates And Ballmer Scaring Away Microsoft CEO Hopefuls?

The pioneer is the fellow with the arrow in his back. Regardless of this fact, it seems that a lot of fans, shareholders, investors, critics, friends and foes all want Microsoft to go in with a new direction.

And it is assumed that the new Redmond CEO will be the person to do just that.

However, people close to the matter have hinted that some of the candidates for the job are refusing to take over the hot seat from Steve Ballmer due to the influence he and company co-found Bill Gates might have after they take charge.

Both gentlemen are two of the largest Microsoft shareholders, part of the board, and as influential as they come. In fact, according to this report by the Wall Street Journal, this is the one of the major reasons why candidates are nervous to take up the Microsoft CEO role.

More on that latter, but first an update on the situation.

The Man of the Moment

The biggest news of the past few days was the official denial of Ford’s Alan Mulally regarding any potential switch to Microsoft. The timing and manner of his statement made crystal clear that he was willing to take over reins, he at least flirted with the idea — for quite some time.

While Alan Mulally remained the frontrunner for the position for months, all bets are now on Satya Nadella, the man in charge for Redmond’s cloud business. For what its worth, analysts seem to think the after Alan Mulally refused the job, the remaining internal candidates are not exactly the best choices.

So unless the special committee in charge for finding a new CEO pulls out a rabbit out of its hat, we are likely left with the likes of Satya Nadella, Kevin Turner, Tony Bates and Stephen Elop as the hopefuls.

Not exactly the biggest names one can think of in the technology domain. Honest.

The Inside Story

So coming back to the abovementioned report by the Wall Street Journal that cites people close to the matter as it tries to shed light on why exactly did Alan Mulally say no to what is the most important vacant position in computing technology as of this writing.

Insiders reveal that one of the biggest reasons why the Ford chief ruled himself out of the talks was the simple fact that both Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates will remain at Microsoft in the foreseeable future. In highly influential positions at that.

The Ford boss feared that both Gates and Ballmer could actually revert any decision he makes.

In fact, the chatterbox of a competitor, the CEO of Salesforce.com (the company that is battling it out with Microsoft in the cloud market), Marc Benioff just chimed in on this and said that while Redmond needs new blood with new ideas, it may be hard to do so with the company’s current board of directors.

In blunt words, it is hard for a new CEO to come in with two CEOs looking over his shoulders.

Going Against the Grain

All this raises one big question, then. Is it even possible going against the strategy (One Microsoft) that Ballmer put forth? Well, we all know it wasn’t only Ballmer, the board was with him too, but really can does anyone really expect to sit on the throne and just turn the steering in the opposite direction?

No matter the fact that it usually takes years for a new master plan to bring results — negative or positive. No matter the fact that things are starting to look up.

Stephen Elop tried to stir the martini when he opened up to the idea of spinning off the Bing and Xbox divisions — in a clear bid to win over some influential investors. Where exactly does steps like this leave other Microsoft products like Windows and Surface that have Bing and Xbox at their very core?

You are right. Nowhere.

And apart from the glorious return of the Start Menu in the next version of the desktop flavor of Windows, and some tweaks here and there (to make it closer to what a desktop OS should be) can one do? The cloud, mobile, search, enterprise businesses leave little room for about turns.

That’s like asking Pandora to open her own box.

At the end of the day, just like in real life, there are two sides to the story. It all comes down to innovation — or perceived innovation, if you will. Microsoft is trying hard, but some of its recent products launched to criticism, and growth on certain fronts has been leisurely slow.

But really, have the two titans startled the potential CEO candidates to the extent that some of them are even scared to take up the job? Let’s hear it!

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