Finally, Swisher caps the negatives list with this:
Perhaps most of all, he does not have a longtime personal relationship with co-founder and chairman Bill Gates, who is a key player in the selection.
I don't see that as a major obstacle to Bates taking over for Ballmer. Far more important is his relationship with Ballmer, not his relationship with Gates. Ballmer and Gates are like peas in a pod, and they trust each other implicitly. If Ballmer says that Bates walks on water, Gates would only wonder how far.
So if Bates (with a side assist from Mulally) is the obvious choice for CEO -- and if, in fact, the choice was all but finalized way back in July -- why has the "selection process" taken so long?
Lots of reasons, and that's where Waggener-Edstrom comes into play.
Until a year ago, Wagg-Ed was canonizing then-Windows-chief Steve Sinofsky as a modern-day saint -- quite successfully, I might add. Then Sinofsky and Ballmer had a falling out, for reasons unknown. (I still believe Sinofsky left because Ballmer wouldn't immediately make Sinofsky his heir apparent after Windows 8 shipped, but that's another tale for a different book.) We heard very little on the accession to the throne until the reorg in July, and Wagg-Ed was thick in the middle of that story, with leaks and reveals exquisitely timed.
Then came Steven Elop's self-immolation last month, with unnamed sources saying Elop -- the former Microsoft exec who went to Nokia as CEO to engineer the takeover of its mobile business by Microsoft -- wants to kill Xbox and Bing. (We still haven't heard Elop on the record about that one.) Perhaps Wagg-Ed was behind that story, maybe not, but Bloomberg's three unnamed sources certainly drove a stake into Elop's hopes of becoming CEO -- assuming he had any.
Now, over Thanksgiving week, AllThingsD's Swisher hears hosannas about Bates from "more than a dozen tech leaders in Silicon Valley, as well as several top Microsoft execs."
A coincidence? No way. Swisher apparently heard some very convincing stories from some very well-placed people. Of course she ran the story.
Is Swisher's story a Wagg-Ed-planted precursor to the final CEO announcement? I think that's likely. I'm expecting a CEO announcement -- a little papal white smoke -- sometime before Christmas.
If the PR folks are behind this, they deserve a raise -- very well done.
This story, "Why Tony Bates is resurfacing as a 'likely' Microsoft 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.