Microsoft board weighs options for new leader

 
Marion Dakers
PPLE’S co-founder yesterday warned Microsoft against resting on its laurels as the company starts its search for a new chief executive.

Steve Wozniak, who joined forces with Steve Jobs to launch Apple’s first personal computers, told the BBC that the company behind Windows had offered customers dated products and “no really great new surprises” in recent years.

He dismissed outgoing boss Steve Ballmer’s 33 years at the company and 13 years as chief executive as “not as important or significant as Bill Gates”.

Last week, Ballmer announced that he would retire within a year, sparking a wide-ranging search for his replacement and fresh questions about the direction of the company.

Nokia boss Stephen Elop was named in the media as a contender over the weekend, while chief operating officer Kevin Turner has emerged as an early leader among internal candidates.

John Thompson, Microsoft’s lead independent director and head of a panel hunting for Ballmer’s replacement, said on Friday that the board is “committed” to the outgoing chief’s strategy.

Ballmer has been working to get the firm back up to speed in a tech market rapidly shifting away from Microsoft’s traditional heartland of desktop PCs.

Microsoft has lost almost $3bn (£1.9bn) on its Bing search engine and other internet projects in the last two years, not counting a $6bn write-off for its failed bid for advertising agency aQuantive. It took a $900m charge for its poor-selling Surface tablet in its most recent quarterly results, and investors have clamoured for the firm to spend more of its $77bn cash pile on product development and dividends.

“Taking an internal candidate like Satya Nadella – the guy nurturing servers – or some of the other people on the Windows team, that makes sense to keep a steady hand through this reorganisation and strategic shift,” Norman Young, an analyst at Morningstar, said. “But a strong case could be made that the company needs a breath of fresh air, someone who can execute on the strategy but also bring an outsider perspective.”

THE INSIDER: KEVIN TURNER
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, MICROSOFT
A Wal-Mart veteran, Turner joined Microsoft in 2005. The COO is tuned in to Ballmer’s plans, which would prove useful if the board sticks to its pledge to carry out his strategy.

THE OLD HAND: STEVE SINOFSKY
FORMER HEAD OF WINDOWS
Sinofsky spent three years in charge of Windows before leaving last year, just weeks after Windows 8 launched to mixed reviews and amid reports of clashes with Ballmer.

THE ONLINE VETERAN: JOHN DONAHOE
CHIEF EXECUTIVE, EBAY
Donahoe has led EBay since 2008, giving him the online chops that Microsoft requires. He also spent five years at consultancy Bain, meaning he can handle a restructuring.

THE SOCIAL MEDIA WHIZZ: VIC GUNDOTRA
SENIOR VP ENGINEERING, GOOGLE
Gundotra left Microsoft in 2006 to join Google, where he picked up plaudits as the software brains behind Google+. However, his lack of CEO experience could hinder his chances.