With Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) on the search for a new CEO, some are speculating that Chairman and founder Bill Gates may return to the C-suite. However, others say that’s a pretty long shot, and not because investors are alleged to be trying to push Gates out completely.

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Gates may become more involved at Microsoft

Nick Wingfield of The New York Times reports that sources close to Gates told him that he has no intention of leaving behind his philanthropic duties and returning to a full-time position at Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT). However, it’s unlikely that he will walk away completely from the company, and some investors would like to see him return and bring the company back to its past prominence in a way similar to how Steve Jobs returned to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and made it the world’s most valuable company.

University of Washington computer science professor Ed Lazowska told The New York Times that he believes Gates will become even more engaged at Microsoft as the company searches for CEO Steve Ballmer’s replacement. Sources have said that Gates is still considered to be a “fresh set of eyes” regarding new Microsoft products. He also reportedly showed up at the company a few times right after Ballmer’s retirement was announced.

Gates is still Microsoft’s biggest shareholder

And Gates’ opinion will continue to carry a lot of weight at Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) because he remains the company’s largest individual shareholder in addition to being its chairman. At this point the search for Microsoft’s next CEO is still in the early stages, and Ballmer has said he would stay on for the next year as the company searches.

Meanwhile names of potential candidates are flying, like that of former Microsoft executive and current Pivotal chief Paul Maritz, and even Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) CEO Alan Mulally, who had a hand in helping Ballmer reorganize Microsoft earlier this year. Mulally is considered by many to be the frontrunner for the position, although Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund suggests that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) needs both Maritz and Mulally because it’s a two-man job and while Mulally has a track record of turning companies around, he doesn’t have the devices background that Maritz has.