Who could be Microsoft’s next CEO?

We take a look at the 12 people tipped for the top spot at the world’s biggest software company.

After Steve Ballmer announced he is to retire from his position as CEO of Microsoft within the next 12 months, speculation has been rife as to who will be taking over the top spot.

IT Pro looks at the people who are in the running, from both inside the company and possible outsiders who could be the next head of the world's biggest software company.

The insiders

Tony Bates, executive vice president for business development and strategy

Bates has been with Microsoft since 2011, when the company bought Voice-over-IP (VoIP) provider Skype, of which he was CEO at the time.

The self-taught programmer, who also spent more than 14 years at Cisco Systems, remained president of the Skype division within Microsoft until July this year, when he was appointed to his current position.

Asked in May 2012 by GeekWire reporter Kara Swisher if he would like to run Microsoft, Bates replied that he had only been with the firm for seven months and was "loving what he was doing at Skype."

However, while he is respected within the industry, there are concerns he has not been with Microsoft long enough to be able to take the top job.

Julie Larson-Green, devices and studios

One of the longest-serving front runners, Larson-Green has been with Microsoft for 20 years. She is also the only woman who is being rumoured for the top spot.

As with Bates, she also arrived at her current position in July, having previously overseen the Windows engineering team, which included the launch of Windows 7 and user interface design for Office XP, Office 2003 and Office 2007.

However, she was also reportedly the driving force behind the controversial Windows 8 Modern UI and, before taking her current position, had only been responsible for the disappointing Surface tablet in terms of hardware. 

Qi Lu, executive vice president for search and internet

Lu is a five year veteran of Microsoft, having joined from Yahoo in 2008 after 10 years at the latter company. He also previously served at IBM.

He is broadly in charge of productivity, communications, search and information services, and is responsible for all the R&D teams across Microsoft Office, Office 365, SharePoint, Exhange, Yammer, Lync, Skype, Bing, Bing Apps, MSN and advertising.

Lu was instrumental in the building of the search partnership with Yahoo and the launch of Microsoft's Bing Search Engine.

But despite his pedigree and success in many areas of the business, Bing has cost Microsoft billions of dollars on his watch without making a significant dent in Google's virtual monopoly on the search market.

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