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Names shuffle in the Microsoft CEO shift

Mulally fades as a pair of new names from the tech sector rise.

Just as it looked like the Microsoft board was ready to settle on Ford CEO Alan Mulally as the replacement for Steve Ballmer, his name is starting to fade while new names are popping up.

Bloomberg reports that Mulally remains in the chase, but his name faded over concerns about his lack of high-tech experience. I felt otherwise, but I'm just a blogger, not a member of the Microsoft board.

The new names being tossed around now: Qualcomm Chief Operating Officer Steve Mollenkopf and VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger. Yeah, let that second one sink in for a minute.

Bloomberg said Mollenkopf is on a list of several choices under serious consideration. At 44, he would be ideal as a long-term CEO, not a short-term person that the 68-year-old Mulally would be. And Mollenkopf would have more incentive to go. Qualcomm's CEO, Paul Jacobs, is the son of the company founder Irwin Jacobs, and you know Paul is going nowhere any time soon unless he completely mismanages the company.

Mollenkopf also heads the smartphone chips group, which would be a perfect fit with the planned acquisition of the Nokia handset business.

Now, would he trade San Diego, probably the most beautiful city on the U.S. mainland, for dreary Seattle, which had 88 days of sunshine this year? Don't laugh, it's a real factor.

Now Pat Gelsinger wouldn't have an issue since he calls Portland, Oregon home. Gelsinger is best known for his engineering work at Intel, where he helped develop the 80286, 386 and 486, and managed the chip division as it moved into the Pentium and Core eras.

He was long considered a major candidate to replace Paul Otellini when he retired, but he departed suddenly in 2009 for EMC. He joined VMware in late 2012, replacing Paul Maritz, an ex-Microsoft executive whom many within Microsoft would like to see make a Steve Jobs-like return.

The thing is Gelsinger is new to VMware, only one year. It's generally not considered good form for top executives to bounce around like that. That said, Microsoft would make a good strategic grab by getting him, since VMware is a competitor in the virtualization race.

Both men would be a great get for Microsoft. Mollenkopf has a track record of success, taking Qualcomm from a low-key player to becoming Intel's chief nemesis, while Gelsinger is one of the best speakers in the business and a technologist to the core. There is no urgency to replace Ballmer, so the board can take its time making its decision.

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