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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 favor 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.
Satya Nadella, cloud and enterprise
PRO: A 21-year Microsoft veteran, he knows the inner workings of the company, especially the hot areas of servers, data centers and online services. Recently promoted to run the newly created 'cloud and enterprise' unit, he controls the infrastructure behind the 'services' side of Microsoft's new vision.
CON: Although he was once a vice president in the Office unit, he might struggle to impose authority over the all-powerful Windows and Office factions, the wellsprings of the company's profits which are famously antagonistic to one another.
Tony Bates, corporate strategy
PRO: Came to Microsoft two years ago as CEO of the acquired online chat company Skype, which represents the new wave of internet-centric, consumer-focused technology that Microsoft has had difficulty replicating. He so impressed his