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The Next Microsoft CEO Will Look a Lot Like This

It's a question that Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) needs to get right: With current Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer slated to retire within a year, who will become the next Microsoft CEO?

The answer to that question is crucial to the health of the struggling tech giant and the revitalization of the company's stock. A series of missteps – not the least of which was Microsoft's failure to recognize the mobile revolution until it was too late – had left the stock languishing for more than a decade.

And while Microsoft stock is up more than 40% in 2013, that climb was stifled over the summer by numerous downgrades.

With the company at a crossroads, whoever becomes the next Microsoft CEO will need to possess the ability to shake the tech giant out of its doldrums so it can better compete with the likes of Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG).

Not that it will be easy. The next Microsoft CEO would only be the third person to hold this position in the firm's 38-year history.

Microsoft's situation calls for one of two leader types: a turnaround expert capable of changing the culture and focusing on business development, or a technology visionary capable of guiding the firm in a rapidly changing world.

So far, the Redmond, Wash.-based company has cut down the list of potential candidates from 40 to "about five."

As talk on the Street continues to heats up over who that will be, I had a chance to speak with Money Morning Defense & Technology Specialist Michael A. Robinson about the narrowing list of candidates.

Robinson says there is one person with the turnaround experience and leadership knowledge to lead the software giant into the next decade.

And that person is going to need every ounce of experience and wisdom to rejuvenate this tired tech titan…

Challenges Facing the Next Microsoft CEO

The truth is, Microsoft is desperate for change.

Ballmer's looming departure has fueled negative views about the company's future. And it's deeply affecting business decisions.

Concerns about a CEO transition has factored into company downgrades by a number of Wall Street analysts, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch and UBS. Numerous reports suggest the company won't even make final decisions on major capital investments until it selects its next CEO.

But this is a short-term problem. It's the long-term transition to new consumer markets – primarily the red-hot domain of smartphones and tablets – that poses the greatest challenge to Microsoft and is delaying the search.

"The big question for MSFT is how to go mobile," Robinson told me. "Android and iOS pretty much own the market."

Robinson argues that the company has finally got mobile right. But now it's a question of implementation…

Join the conversation. Click here to jump to comments…

  1. Mysterious Traveller | December 4, 2013

    Well, I am hoping for a turnaround expert. The tech visionaries have done enough damage to Microsoft. Many issues are easy to address:

    The Windows 8 debacle can get solved by recognizing that there are several distinct types of
    Microsoft consumers. If you give the 450 million XP and 670 million Win 7 users what they want, namely an interface that includes ANY and ALL XP/Win7 useful functions that have been killed off by the tech visionaries. You can fix this by listening to your customer, and by ignoring the "innovation through annoyance" crowd. One OS for all is not a working concept, for the same reason that for the purpose of getting stuff from point A to point B, there are "bikes, motorcycles, cars, trucks, trains and airplanes, and each of them in 1000's of variations and models and so forth. Does not take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

    Another thing to be fixed are the problem ridden upgrade paths, and all the related complications that go with this. A company like MS should make it "easy and problem-free" to upgrade, as much as that is possible. So far, MS has never placed enough emphasis on this issue. As it is, problems are the rule, not the exception. That could be turned around. The goal here is that whatever worked under XP, will also work under Win 7, or Win 8, etc.

    Next, if Android and IOS is working better than the Windows Phone, then go and figure out why that is, and fix those problems. It's easy for me to say that, because I have never used any of them, and therefore my blissful ignorance keeps me safe from playing favorites. If you can't figure
    it out, then fire these people, and get new ones in.

    Genius is not making things hard, genius is making things easy.

    My guess that there is so much infighting and so many turf wars going on within Microsoft and possibly even within its board, that basic reasonable business decisions become really difficult to make. And because of that, customers become the last thing that MS cares about.

    It would be amusing and effective to watch someone like Carl Icahn come in with lots of cash, turn over the table in the boardroom and clean house. That would be a good show.

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