What took Microsoft's board so long to choose a CEO?

As Nadella and Thompson take over Microsoft's reins, you have to wonder: Why did it take the board six months to find them?

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Although I fully expect Ballmer will be coaching Nadella left and right -- remember that Nadella has no experience running an independent company, much less one with 130,000 employees -- I don't expect to see Gates whispering into Nadella's ear. Ballmer has good motivation to support such an arrangement. People tend to forget that Ballmer's in line to become Microsoft's largest stockholder later this year, eclipsing Gates himself.

Then there's the open question about Nadella. Would he have bristled under Gates? Was Nadella one of the driving forces behind Gates' reassignment? I doubt that we'll ever know the answer.

Nope, Gates didn't jump and he wasn't pushed. He was just expediently -- and very publicly -- transferred.

Which brings me to the nagging question about the board: Why did it take almost six months for the board to put together this solution? If Nadella was the "first and unanimous" choice, why did it take so long to choose him?

I don't know, but I'd like to hazard a guess.

There were a lot of moving parts: Gates had to convince the board to put Thompson in charge of the conclave. Nadella and Thompson had to develop a good working relationship. Thompson and Gates had to come to a meeting of the minds. Ballmer had to buy into (or perhaps dream up?) all of it. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if Ford's Alan Mulally -- a trusted adviser to both Gates and Ballmer -- was in the middle of everything, possibly posing scenarios where he would participate in Microsoft's management. Certainly, other board members were deeply involved -- at least in the later stages of the process.

Perhaps it took that long to come up with the plan and put all the pieces together. Clearly, there was much more going on behind the scenes than simply selecting a new CEO.

Now we get to see what happens on the morning after. I wonder what will happen to the insiders who were considered for the job -- at least by the press -- but didn't land it: Tony Bates, Kevin Turner (whom Ballmer mentioned in his YouTube video), Stephen Elop (who's locked into an 18-month $25 million commitment to Microsoft as part of the Nokia acquisition), among others.

I'm also very concerned about the vacuum left by Nadella's promotion. Can Microsoft find somebody capable of keeping the enterprise and cloud group running? Scott Guthrie -- universally known as ScottGu -- has taken over in the interim. He has a tremendous reputation, but Nadella's are tough shoes to fill.

This story, "What took Microsoft's board so long to choose a CEO?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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