Ballmer goes, will he take Gates out with him?

According to the gossip, Gates taking the lead role in finding a replacement for Ballmer (dear God, let it not be Elop) has brought things to a head.

As Ballmer was a Gates pick in the first place there are mumblings and grumblings from the Microsoft board that he may not be best placed to pick his successor, being as how Ballmer's tenure has been characterised by mis-steps and not a little madness.

So there's a mood to use Ballmer's departure as a chance to clean-slate the entire operation, picking a new top man and a new direction at the same time.

The only way to do that is have an independent committee or some such do the picking.

As with any putsch, this is tricky stuff. It's not clear if the majority of the Microsoft board feel like ousting Gates and such a move would certainly have a downside or two - investor, customer and employee confidence would all suffer a hit, for one thing.

The most likely course is for Gates not to take part in the new CEO selection and to move a couple of steps closer to the door at the same time. He is already gradually reducing his share ownership (it's only 4.5 per cent at present) and is expected to be completely separated from Microsoft in just a few years' time.

Patience guys, patience.

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