The search for Microsoft’s next CEO is reaching its final stages. Slowly.

The company has cut the number of candidates from 40 down to five, a good sign that the process is moving forward, reports Reuters. Two of the big names that survived the cull are former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop and Ford CEO Alan Mulally, both of whom have been previously named as possibilities.

Other names on Microsoft’s shortlist include Skype CEO Tony Bates and Microsoft cloud and enterprise head Satya Nadella. While Microsoft is pursuing high-profile external candidates like Mulally, the company seems a lot more intent on going internal for its next leader.

Perhaps no one is more internal to Microsoft than cofounder Bill Gates, who, while a member of Microsoft’s board, has been focused on philanthropy, not business, since 2008. Could Gates make a comeback as CEO? Not likely, say sources.

While Microsoft is still super profitable — it pulled in $5.24 billion last quarter — investors have been pushing the company to pursue a CEO skilled at turning companies around. That’s because, while Microsoft is making cash, it’s still largely irrelevant in many of the big markets that matter right now — including smartphones and tablets.

The search continues.


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