Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) said today it won’t be making a decision on who CEO Steve Ballmer’s replacement will be until early next year. That’s according to a blog post on Microsoft‘s website (spotted by CNET).

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Microsoft’s board updates CEO search

The post was written by John W. Thompson, who is currently on Microsoft’s board of directors. According to Thompson, they’ve been doing “deeper research and investigation” into their top candidates after narrowing down their list. He said they “expect” to finish the selection process “in the early part of 2014.”

Many employees have been hoping to hear who the company’s next CEO would be by the end of this year. In fact, some sources have suggested that this would indeed be the case. As a result, today’s update from Thompson may come as a bit of a blow to those hoping for an answer sooner rather than later.

Thompson is the chairman of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s board search committee, and he said they identified more than 100 potential candidates initially and then spoke “with several dozen.” Next they focused their “energy intensely” on approximately 20 people. He notes that Microsoft has only ever had two CEOs in the 38 years it has been in existence. Of course Bill Gates was the company’s first CEO, and some would like to see him return to the company he co-founded, although that appears highly unlikely.

Potential candidates for Microsoft CEO

Of course now the speculation about who will take the top spot at Microsoft is only going to continue. Many are hoping the company will be able to attract Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) CEO and turnaround master Alan Mulally. Those hopes have been subject to a roller coaster ride as Ford executives said he would stay with them through the end of next year. Then this week sources suggested that he might leave before then after all, although they did not indicate whether he might even be considering taking the CEO job at Microsoft.

Some potential names which could remain on Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s short list include former Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) (BIT:NOK1V) (HEL:NOK1V) CEO Stephen Elop, former Skype CEO Tony Bates and current Microsoft enterprise head Satya Nadela.