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The long search for a new CEO—begun when current Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer announced his impending retirement back in August—may soon be coming to an end. A post on Re/code today cites “numerous sources close to Microsoft” as confirming that the company may have its selection for a new CEO picked out, and ready to announce within the next week.

According to the post, Satya Nadella, Microsoft executive vice president in charge of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise division, is the front-runner for the gig. Bringing an insider up to the top spot could work out in Microsoft’s favor in many ways, since Nadella undoubtedly has a solid understanding of the company’s history, strengths, and weaknesses.

That said, it’s no secret that bringing people in from the outside to reassess the company’s direction would go a long way toward pleasing shareholders. The fact that so much was wrapped up in Microsoft’s courting of Ford CEO Alan Mulally—whose public refusal of the job sent Microsoft’s stock a-tumblin’—is proof enough of that. The thinking goes, I imagine, that bringing in a CEO from another company would give the new chief necessary chutzpah, and lack of emotional and historical attachment, to make big changes and shakeups, ranging from cuts to layoffs, and all the rest.

The Re/code post also mentions that Nokia CEO Stephen Elop could still wind up in the big chair, and his plans for the company should that come to pass involve killing the Bing division and selling off Xbox, which would allow Microsoft to focus on delivering software like Windows and Office.

Even though Ballmer gave himself 12 months to exit his position, the fact that it’s taken this long to find a replacement is telling of Microsoft’s situation. Their business is going well—but it’s not booming. Their most recent quarterly financial results exceeded expectations, but what’s even more telling is how surprised analysts were regarding that performance. While Windows isn’t in any danger of losing its stranglehold on OS market share, consumers are pretty slow in adopting Windows 8 and 8.1. Meanwhile, PC sales are slowing down, and the Xbox One is in second place to the PlayStation 4 in the console wars.

In short, Microsoft could use some direction. As ever, the company is going in lots of different directions, and with mixed successes in each one. And compared to firms like Apple—with singular, curated vision—and Google—which just lets innovation run wild with no real concern for short term success or failure—Microsoft is decidedly behind the times. I don’t know if Nadella is the guy who will pull the company out of its rut and establish a bold, new vision. But I do know that having someone at the helm can’t help but give it at least a little direction.


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