UPDATE 1-Microsoft's Gates says 'pleased with progress' of CEO search


(Corrects to show answered questions, not asked them in thirdparagraph)

By Bill Rigby

BELLEVUE, Wash., Nov 19 (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp Chairman Bill Gates said on Tuesday he was pleased with thesoftware company's progress in finding a new chief executive andthat the search committee had spoken to a number of candidates,but did not give a date by which he expected a new leader toreplace the retiring Steve Ballmer.

Speaking at Microsoft's annual shareholder meeting inBellevue, Washington, Gates paused briefly and choked up withemotion as he thanked Ballmer for his work at the company.

Gates then left the stage and sat in the front row of anaudience of around 400 people, alongside other members of theboard. That was a departure from previous years when he remainedonstage and occasionally answered questions.

Microsoft has not shed much light on its CEO search, butsources close to the process have told Reuters the company hasnarrowed its shortlist of candidates to just a handful.

Those sources have said the candidates include Ford Motor Co chief Alan Mulally and former Nokia CEO StephenElop, as well as former Skype CEO and internal candidate TonyBates, now responsible for Microsoft's business development.

Microsoft remains highly profitable and last month beat WallStreet's quarterly profit and revenue forecasts.

But the company has come under criticism for missing some ofthe largest technology shifts in the past few years fromInternet search to social networking, and Apple Inc andGoogle Inc are now at the vanguard of a mobilecomputing revolution that's eroding its core PC-based business. (Reporting by Bill Rigb; , editing by Gerald E. McCormick,Bernard Orr)

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