Just before Christmas, Microsoft announced internally the pending retirement of Research and Strategy Chief Craig Mundie. His replacement is familiar to some of us veteran Microsoft watchers: Eric Rudder.
Rudder, for those who may not know of him, given his not-so-public profile for the past few years, is Microsoft's Chief Technical Officer. Rudder has been managing some of Mundie's groups for the past year.
But effective immediately as of December 2012, he took over completely the management of Microsoft Research, Trustworthy Computing, and the Technology Policy Group. His direct reports include the head of the Startup Business Group inside the company (Amit Mital) and the head of the Strategic Software/Silicon Architectures group (KD Hallman), among others.
Rudder had almost completely disappeared from the public-speaking circuit after he moved out of his role as Senior Vice President of Server and Tools around 2006.
This past week, Rudder was making the rounds at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). He was pitchman for Microsoft Research's Illumiroom proof-of-concept that extends Kinect for Windows so as to project images on walls around the TV. (Here's more on Illumiroom.) He also was part of Samsung's keynote and showed off a prototype of a Windows Phone with the flexible Youm display.
Back in the early 2000s, Rudder was often mentioned as one of the likely possible CEO successors to Bill Gates. But then he went underground to work mysterious projects, like Microsoft's Midori operating system, surfacing rarely to show off emerging technologies at a handful of events around the world.
One of my contacts recently quipped that he considered Rudder to be more Gates-like than anyone still at Microsoft -- which shouldn't be too surprising given Rudder worked as Gates' Technical Assistant for years (as did the former head of Windows, Steven Sinofsky).
Might Rudder be back on the short list of possible Microsoft CEO candidates again? What's your take?