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Jeff Raikes

Philanthropy, ex-Office chief

PRO: Bill Gates, who is on the committee to choose the next Microsoft CEO, picked this former leader of the Office unit to be the chief executive of his philanthropic foundation. As Microsoft approaches a critical transition, his long experience, understanding of Gates' thinking and steady hand might be an effective combination.

CON: Immersed in the world of philanthropy for the past five years, he may be out of touch with the latest technology trends. The same generation as Ballmer, his appointment might be seen as a continuation of the old guard.

Candidates for Microsoft's Next CEO

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.

But insiders would face scepticism from those who want a clean break from Ballmer's personal legacy, as well as other obstacles.

The following is a list of potential internal candidates, with pros and cons, based on conversations with analysts and insiders: