Microsoft's hunt for a new chief executive will continue into next year, the firm's board of directors has confirmed.
The search for a replacement for outgoing boss Steve Ballmer, who announced he would be retiring within a year in August, began with a list of more than 100 candidates, according to Microsoft board member John Thompson.
In a blog post, he explained that the process had then narrowed to a list of around 20 potential business leaders, "all extremely impressive in their own right". He said their initial search had spanned multiple industries and involved talks with "several dozen" potential candidates.
He explained: "As you would expect, as this group has narrowed, we've done deeper research and investigation, including with the full board." He added that the board's work to find Microsoft's third ever CEO would be complete in the early part of next year.
"As a board, we are determined and confident that the company's third CEO will lead Microsoft to renewed and continued success," he concluded.
Many rumours of a potential candidate shortlist have appeared in recent months, with Ford chief Alan Mulally, Microsoft cloud and enterprise boss Satya Nadella and Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop all placed in the frame. Last week, chip maker Qualcomm's chief operating officer Steve Mollenkopf was also hinted as a strong candidate, until Qualcomm announced his promotion to CEO.
Steve Ballmer's replacement will arrive at a company with significant ground to make up in the mobile devices space. In November, Ballmer admitted he'd been "holding Microsoft back" as he acknowledged it was time to step down from the company.
EE, O2, Vodafone, Three and Airspan open the bidding
Worried about data privacy? Here are several ways to secure your Facebook account
The ICO is seeking an urgent warrant to investigate a major data breach - everything you need to know as the story continues to unfold