Putting an end to all speculation, John Thompson, the board member who is heading Microsoft's search for a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), said on Tuesday that Steve Ballmer's successor probably won't be selected until early 2014. "We're moving ahead well, and I expect we'll complete our work in the early part of 2014.", said Thomson in a blog post. People familiar with the matter were expecting a name by the end of this year.

This is the first time the board has been so specific about the timing ever since Ballmer in August announced his plans to retire within an year, following which a board search committee was put to task to find a new CEO – Microsoft's 3rd ever since it was founded in 1975.

Thomson said that Microsoft initially identified more than 100 candidates and even talked to a dozen of them for the post. The list was first cut down to 20 and has further been reduced to only a handful of names.

The list of candidates who have been considered for the top post include former Skype CEO Tony Bates, Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally and Satya Nadella, executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise group. Last week, Qualcomm executive Steve Mollenkopf's name was doing the rounds but the rumor was quickly put to rest after the chip maker made him the company's new CEO.

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