Dashing Microsoft hopes? Ford Chairman says Mulally will stay put through next year

Ford(s f) CEO Alan Mulally has been a front runner for Microsoft’s top job for a few months now. Many said he’s been the candidate to beat to succeed outgoing Microsoft(s msft) CEO Steve Ballmer. But now Ford chairman Edsel Ford II told Bloomberg News that Mulally is locked up through the end of 2014. Last August, Ballmer pledged to step down within 12 months and the conventional wisdom has been that sooner would be better so Microsoft can get on with business free and clear of succession rumors and worries. Maybe this latest wrinkle gives internal candidates Satya Nadella, Stephen Elop and Tony Bates the edge now?