2Julia Larson-Green, Microsoft Vice President of Hardware Engineering
Julia Larson-Green is first in this list because she might just be the frontrunner. As Microsoft announced recently, it’s focusing far more on hardware than it ever has in the past and software is taking a backseat. Larson-Green heads up Microsoft’s hardware division and has done a solid job in that post. She seems to be a plausible choice.
3Terry Myerson, Microsoft Vice President of Operating Systems
Although Microsoft is changing its tune a bit as it relates to software, the company still relies heavily on Windows. Someone needs to sort out the company’s operating system go-to-market strategy for the long term. The board might decide to install Terry Myerson as CEO to ensure the OS is handled well.
4Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer
Sheryl Sandberg, the woman who has arguably made the biggest impact on Facebook’s growth next to Mark Zuckerberg, seems ready to take over a big company. Sandberg has shown she has what it takes to skillfully manage Facebook. Those same skills might work well for Microsoft. She’d be a great pick for the software company.
5Scott Forstall, Former Apple Senior Vice President
Scott Forstall was ousted from Apple after he refused to apologize for the problems with Apple’s Maps application for iOS. Since then, he’s gone missing. But what better way for Microsoft to bring some innovation to the company than to hire Apple’s former iOS chief? Forstall has a lot of game left in him, and one would bet that he’d be happy to take on his former company.
6Steven Sinofsky, Former Windows Boss
Steven Sinofsky was once one of the most influential people at Microsoft. But after he was let go following Windows 8’s launch, it seemed that wouldn’t be the last time we’d see him. Sinofsky would bring to the C-suite all kinds of knowledge of Microsoft’s history and insight into the company’s core properties. He might be part of the old guard, but he knows what he’s doing.
7Qi Lu, Microsoft Vice President of Office, SharePoint
Qi Lu has quickly asserted himself at Microsoft as one of its most important executives. In his role as head of Applications and Services, Lu needs to appeal to what could be the most important customer segment for Microsoft—the enterprise. While mobile and consumer products and services are of great concern to Microsoft, don’t forget that the company grew primarily as a provider of enterprise applications and services.
8Sundar Pichai, Google Senior Vice President
Google Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai seems ready to lead a big, growing company. After all, as head of Google’s Android, Chrome and Apps, he’s leading up what could be the most important division at the search giant right now. If Microsoft could steal him away—which could be tough—it would be a huge opportunity for the software giant.
9Stephen Elop, Nokia CEO
Adding Nokia CEO Stephen Elop to this list might surprise some folks, but the truth is Elop has been able to keep Nokia afloat, despite its many challenges. What’s more, Elop has intimate knowledge of Microsoft’s mobile plans and is a smart executive in his own right. All in all, he seems like a potentially solid choice. Oh, and he’s a former Microsoft executive.
10Tony Bates, Microsoft Executive Vice President
When Tony Bates came to Microsoft in the Skype acquisition, it became clear that he was highly respected. Soon after joining Microsoft, Bates took over the Skype division and is in charge of several important projects within the company. Simply put, Bates has his hands in all kinds of things at Microsoft, making him a potentially sound choice for the CEO role.
11Vic Gundotra, Google Senior Vice President of Social
Vic Gundotra is another possible option for Microsoft. As one of Google’s most senior executives and the head of the company’s social initiative, Gundotra appears to be the kind of forward-thinking person Microsoft needs. He might not top the list of Google executives Microsoft might want, but he has to be a prominent option.