The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is having another red day, trading down 0.4% in early action. One of the august index's biggest losers is Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), thanks to bad news about the search for a new CEO. Ford (NYSE:F) leader Alan Mulally most certainly won't take the Microsoft job, removing one of the best potential candidates from Microsoft investors' wish lists.

"I would like to end the Microsoft speculation because I have no other plans to do anything other than serve Ford," Mulally told AP in an interview. "You don't have to worry about me leaving [Ford]."

So there you have it. Perhaps the best turnaround specialist on the market turns out not to be on the market at all. Ford investors love to see that their proven winner will stay at the car company's wheel, while Redmond's shareholders despair. Microsoft shares plunged as much as 1.8% overnight while Ford shares surged as much as 2.1% higher on a generally gloomy trading day.

All bets are off, because there's really no telling who will take Steve Ballmer's job at Microsoft anymore.

The board of directors may have to elevate an insider like COO Kevin Turner or hardware chief Julie Larson-Green, but then they'd run the risk of simply reinforcing the status quo and dooming Microsoft to another few years under the unfocused strategy of recent years.


Is Bill Ruh the next Microsoft CEO? Crazier things have happened. Image source: GE.

I would prefer to see an outsider swoop in to claim the Microsoft throne, followed by a wholesale rebuilding of the board that selected him or her. General Electric (NYSE:GE) is a well-known talent farm for future CEOs, and the company is getting deeper into next-generation computing than its investors have noticed -- why not grab GE's global software head Bill Ruh before he becomes way too important for GE to lose?

If Ruh isn't the final choice here, I sincerely hope that Microsoft is at least looking at fresh-thinking candidates in his mold. This would be a terrible time to rest on Microsoft's admittedly cushy laurels, but a great time to apply the software giant's massive resources to entirely new ideas. Pick another protector of the old ways, and Microsoft stock is dead money for the foreseeable future.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford. It also owns shares of General Electric and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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