In a comment that should surprise no one, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said Tuesday that Nokia's Stephen Elop is a candidate to replace him.
"Stephen will go from external [candidate] to internal," Ballmer told the Seattle Times, though he also said the Microsoft board will evaluate all candidates.
Elop led Microsoft's Microsoft Office division until he left to become Nokia's CEO three years ago. There, he hammered out the tight Microsoft-Nokia partnership around the Windows Phone operating system. Now Elop has stepped back to the role of executive vice president of Nokia's devices and services division, which Microsoft agreed to buy in a $7.2 billion deal announced Monday.
The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014.
Ballmer plans to retire within 12 months, once a replacement is found who will carry out the company's new vision of offering devices and services, not just software, he said in August.