Next Microsoft CEO: 5 People Who Can Replace Steve Ballmer and Make Microsoft a Tech Giant Again

Now that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has announced he’s retiring within a year, Steve Ballmer Successor Watch has officially begun for one of the tech world's biggest and most influential companies.

In 2000, there was very little doubt that college buddy and co-founder Bill Gates would hand over the reigns to Ballmer. Today, Ballmer has no heir apparent, and his retirement took many by surprise. As the world awaits white smoke from Redmond, Washington, tech bloggers have begun speculating as to who might be next in line. Some possibilities include: Satya Nadella, executive vice president of the new Cloud and Enterprise Division, Kevin Turner, the company’s chief operating officer who was CIO at Walmart and CEO of Sam’s Club, and outsiders like Stephen Elop, Nokia’s CEO.

What does Microsoft — the once mighty computer giant which has lost significant ground in the tech world to the likes of Apple and Google — need in a new leader? That person must be a technology visionary, a stellar tech engineer with a deep understanding of the business, of the mistakes that have been made, and of the emerging technology simmering in the company’s research and development division. Microsoft needs an innovator-in-chief. That's the future.

1. Satya Nadella

Nadella worked with Sun Microsystems as a member of the technology staff before he joined Microsoft in 1992. At Microsoft he worked as the senior vice president of R&D for the Online Services Division and vice president of the Microsoft Business Division. Later, he was made the president of Microsoft’s $19 billion Server and Tools Business and led the transformation of the business and technology from client-server software to cloud infrastructure and services.

Nadella's work with clould computing puts him at the crossroads of many different Microsoft depaertments, thus making him ... er ... the man in the cloud who sees literally everything.

On the biography page of Nadella, Microsoft says, "The Cloud OS platform not only powers all of Microsoft's internet scale cloud services (including O365, Bing, SkyDrive, Xbox Live, Skype and Dynamics) but also fuels global enterprises around the world to meet their most challenging and mission-critical computing needs."

Then, as the Wall Street Journal reports, "there have been whispers Ballmer has sought to position Nadella as a potential successor."

2. Terry Myerson

Terry Myerson is the brains behind Microsoft's smartphone and gaming sectors.  

The Verge dubbed Myerson as "the most important man at Microsoft."

As the Wall Street Journal outlines, [Myerson] is "one of the big winners in Ballmer’s reorganization. Myerson catapults from running Microsoft’s tiny Windows Phone smartphone business, into the engineering boss for the heart of Microsoft–the operating software for Windows-based PCs, servers, smartphones and Xbox."

3. Stephen Elop

An outsider like Stephen Elop, Nokia’s CEO, would be an interesting pick.

According to Sunday Times of London, Elop, who was in charge of Microsoft Office, is considered a strong candidate to replace Ballmer.

This gives Elop a massive range of business experience, but also a technical background overseeing multiple types of software and hardware production — the double-helix back bone of any good tech company.

4. Kevin Turner

Kevin Turner, Microsfot's chief operating officer who was CIO at Walmart and CEO of Sam’s Club, is a name on the top of many analysts' list, but will likely be a long-shot. 

As the Wall Street Journal reports: "Microsoft’s longtime chief operating officer (and therefore the titular No. 2) basically stays put. Turner leads the company’s sales force, and he’s developed a reputation for not mincing words. Microsoft insiders doubt, however, that Turner would ever be chief of a company that lionizes engineering and tech expertise. He also is the highest-paid executive at Microsoft, pulling down compensation last year that Microsoft valued at $10.7 million."

5. Bill Gates

What if ....

Steve Jobs did it for Apple, and that worked out nicely, right?

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