"It indicates that they believe only an insider who understands the politics and ramifications of change within the structure of the organization can right the ship," Gold said. "This may or may not be the case, but as an insider, you are more likely to know where the bodies are buried and who the business winners and losers may be."
Nadella, a native of Hyderabad, India, joined Microsoft in 1992 from Sun Microsystems. He has a master's in computer science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
Since Ballmer made his surprising decision to retire in August, speculation about who would be his replacement and about why he decided to step down has been rampant in the press. Ballmer and Gates have made public appearances since then in which they have gotten emotional about the process to find a new CEO and about Microsoft's future.
In a blog post in December, John Thompson, a board member and the leader of the CEO search committee, revealed that Microsoft identified over 100 viable candidates and then interviewed "several dozen." The list was later narrowed down to about 20 people.
It was rumored that some candidates took themselves out of the running, citing concerns over the influence of Gates and Ballmer, who is one of the company's biggest individual shareholders. For a stretch of time, Ford CEO Alan Mulally was reportedly a front-runner, but he recently told Ford's board he had no plans to leave his job.
Microsoft didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
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