Who could be Microsoft’s next CEO?

Silhouettes in a crowd

The outlier

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

Yes, there really are people suggesting Tim Cook could fly the coop to join Apple's long-term rival.

Cook joined Apple in 1998 as senior vice president of worldwide operations before he eventually rising to the position of COO in 2007. After a couple of temporary stints as CEO while founder Steve Jobs underwent treatment for pancreatic cancer, he took the position as CEO full time in August 2011.

Unsurprisingly, though, Cook is considered the least likely contender for Microsoft's top role, with Ladbrokes giving odds of 100/1. However, if he were to switch sides, you could turn 10 into 1,000...

The return of the king

Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and non-executive chairman

Gates has repeatedly said he will never come back to Microsoft in a business role, having chosen instead to focus on philanthropic work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and pledged to give away half his wealth over the course of his lifetime.

Nevertheless there are those who think he could make a comeback and his odds, at 50/1 are better than those of Tim Cook.

Farhad Manjoo, an American columnist, has said that Microsoft "must bring back Bill Gates" and claimed he is "the only man who can save [the company]".

He's not alone in thinking Microsoft would be better off in Gates' hands, at least for the time being.

Salesforce's CEO Marc Benioff told CNET Gates should take over as interim head of the company.

"There is no clear candidate with the visionary skills to turn the company around other than Bill Gates. He wouldn't just be a magnet for a new vision, but for a new talent pool of leadership," he said.

Jane McCallion is ITPro's Deputy Editor, primarily covering security, storage and networking for ITPro, CloudPro and ChannelPro.

Jane joined ITPro and CloudPro in July 2012, having previously written freelance for a number of business and finance magazines. She has also covered current affairs, including the student, public sector workers and TUC protests and strikes in central London while studying a Masters in Journalism at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Prior to becoming a journalist, Jane studied Applied Languages at the University of Portsmouth.