Microsoft to world: Calm down, no new CEO till 2014

So we can take a break from all the tea-leaf reading, at least for a month. There will be no Microsoft(s msft) CEO until at least early next year, according to John Thompson, the Microsoft director leading the CEO star search. That process has been going on at least officially since late August when current CEO Steve Ballmer announced plans to step down within 12 months.

In a Technet post on Tuesday, Thompson updated the world on the process:

…we initially cast a wide net across a number of different industries and skill sets. We identified over 100 possible candidates, talked with several dozen, and then focused our energy intensely on a group of about 20 individuals, all extremely impressive in their own right. As you would expect, as this group has narrowed, we’ve done deeper research and investigation, including with the full Board. We’re moving ahead well, and I expect we’ll complete our work in the early part of 2014.

Hmm. the “early part of 2014” is pretty loosey-goosey and plays into the worst fears of some at Microsoft who say (privately) that the longer this takes, the worse it is for the company. While Microsoft execs — well, mostly Ballmer — have said that the “One Microsoft” strategy laid out in July is still operable, no one really knows that for sure until the new boss takes the reins.

Ford(s f) CEO Alan Mulally, Microsoft Windows & Tools President Satya Nadella, and biz dev Executive Vice President Tony Bates are thought to be top contenders. Paul Maritz, CEO of Pivotal and former CEO of VMware and former star exec at Microsoft seems to have taken himself out of the race, telling a British pub that he is “too old” for this gig.

My favorite conspiracy theory is that the next Microsoft CEO will be none other than (drum roll) John Thompson, himself. He was a former big wig at IBM(s ibm) before becoming CEO of Symantec(s symc). Don’t laugh, there’s precedent for this. Dick Cheney led George W. Bush’s “exhaustive search” for a vice president after which Cheney came up with the perfect person: Dick Cheney.

Photo courtesy of  Flickr user dfarber