Microsoft's board is hoping to find the company's replacement to outgoing chief Steve Ballmer by the end of this year, according to Bloomberg.
The board is hoping to find the next Microsoft CEO well before the 12-month deadline for finding a replacement that Ballmer gave when he announced his retirement this August.
The tight timeline highlights the urgency of the board's mission to appoint the right person to lead the sprawling software company, which wants to remain both a consumer and enterprise business, as well as becoming a devices and services business — in effect an attempt to fend off threats from Google, Amazon and Apple by adopting its rivals' strategies.
Speculation has been rife over who will replace Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO since 2000, and the only person to lead the company other than founder Bill Gates.
According to Bloomberg's sources, eBay's CEO John Donahoe has declined to be considered for the role, while board members have already spoken with tipped favourite, Ford CEO Alan Mulally, and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who is returning to lead Microsoft's devices unit once its €5.4bn acquisition of Nokia's handset business closes.
Other candidates for the role that board members have talked with include former VMWare CEO Paul Maritz, also a top former Microsoft exec who now leads EMC's Pivotal, and Tony Bates, the former president of Skype after Microsoft acquired it.
Last week, Reuters also reported Microsoft's ambition to find its CEO by the end of the year, adding that at least three of the top investors in Microsoft want a "turnaround expert" in the top job, favouring Ford's Mulally and Mike Lawrie, CSC's CEO and former CEO of Siebel Systems.
Microsoft was said to have a list of about 40 people, including internal and external candidates, that it's whittling down.
Other possible candidates include Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft's server and tools business, former Windows chief Steven Sinofsky, and former Juniuper CEO Kevin Johnson.