Microsoft will name its new CEO in early 2014 image

If you’re wondering what’s got to do this headline with the automotive industry, we should only remind you that Ford’s current CEO, Alan Mulally, is seen by insiders as a contender on the short list for the tech’s giant main position.

Now, Microsoft’s prolonged search for a new leader continues with the news that the software giant will not choose its successor for CEO Steve Ballmer until early in 2014.

“We’re moving ahead well, and I expect we’ll complete our work in the early part of 2014,” said board member John Thompson, the independent director leading the CEO search.

The short list includes both internal and external candidates, which has caused angst in other corporate boardrooms, including Ford because CEO Alan Mulally has been mentioned as a candidate.

The speculation is being cited as a distraction in Dearborn where the automaker is preparing to launch 23 global vehicles next year, the biggest wave of new products in one year in its 111-year history.

Some Ford board members wanted informal assurances of Mulally’s plans when the board met Thursday; there was no formal item on the agenda. At a media event that night, Mulally spent hours casually chatting with reporters from across the country while deftly turning away any questions about the length of his tenure with Ford.

Mulally and his colleagues have repeatedly said there are no changes to the plan to stay through 2014, but there are mounting reports that he will not finish out 2014 with Ford, regardless of whether he goes to Microsoft. He does not have a contract binding him to the automaker.