Investors have largely believed an outsider would be a better pick, seeing an insider as much more likely to continue the strategic pivot that Ballmer announced in 2012, which many believe to be misguided.
An internal candidate would also demonstrate that Gates, and to a lesser extent, Ballmer, will continue to call the shots from the board, anathema to those investors who see the pair as part of the problem with Microsoft's inability to make headway on mobile.
Gates and others have hinted that the new CEO would have to have technical chops, which pointed toward someone already inside the firm or an outsider with engineering experience in device hardware or software.
At Microsoft's November shareholder meeting, Gates said the next CEO needed "a lot of comfort in leading a highly technical organization and have an ability to work with our top technical talent." And when John Thompson, the director leading the search committee, announced in December that the new CEO would be announced in early 2014, he cited also Gates' criteria nearly word for word.
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