left the stage and sat in the front row of an audience of around 400 people, alongside other members of the board. That was a departure from previous years when he remained onstage and occasionally answered questions.
Microsoft has not shed much light on its CEO search, but sources close to the process have told Reuters the company has narrowed its shortlist of candidates to just a handful, including Ford Motor Co chief Alan Mulally and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, as well as former Skype CEO and internal candidate Tony Bates, now responsible for Microsoft's business development.
Microsoft remains highly profitable and last month beat Wall Street's quarterly profit and revenue forecasts.
But the company has come under criticism for missing some of the largest technology shifts in the past few years from Internet search to social networking, and Apple Inc and Google Inc are now at the vanguard of a mobile computing revolution that is eroding its core PC-based business.
Microsoft's shares closed down 0.5 percent at $36.74 on Nasdaq.