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Julie Larson-Green

Xbox gaming console and Surface tablet

PRO: a 20-year veteran of Microsoft and acolyte of recently departed Windows chief Steven Sinofsky, she has intimate knowledge of both the Office and Windows units, having led the redesign of both products.

CON: Is now in charge of the 'devices and studios' unit, leading Microsoft's foray into making its own computers and other hardware. The Surface tablet has had poor sales, despite initial enthusiasm. She may be marked down for her close involvement with the tepidly received Windows 8.

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: