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Tony Bates

Corporate strategy

PRO: Came to Microsoft two years ago as CEO of the acquired online chat company Skype, which represents the new wave of internet-centric, consumer-focused technology that Microsoft has had difficulty replicating. He so impressed his new boss that Ballmer put him in charge of corporate strategy and relations with developers and PC makers.

CON: May not have been at Microsoft long enough to know how to wrench it into a new shape, and his narrow specialty in the telecommunications and router field may not be broad enough to run such a large software-based company.

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: