Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s short list for CEO candidates appears to be dwindling. QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) may have stolen its own chief operating officer Steve Mollenkopf from Microsoft’s consideration last week, but he’s not the only one being removed from Microsoft’s list.

Microsoft logo

Mollenkopf a great loss for Microsoft

Raymond James analysts Tavis C. McCourt and Daniel Toomey believe losing Mollenkopf to Microsoft would have been a big mistake for QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM), which may be why the company moved so quickly to quash rumors that he would leave. They note that at just 44 years old, he will be around for many more years.

In addition, they said Mollenkopf was responsible for Qualcomm’s successful transition from being “a niche semiconductor company” into “the dominant mobile semiconductor in the world.” They saw all of the positive changes which have happened at Qualcomm have been the result of his leadership there. In other words, Qualcomm’s decision to keep him on board was a major loss for Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)—if he was indeed on the company’s short list for CEO.

Who will Microsoft’s next CEO be?

Many continue to hope Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) CEO and turnaround master Alan Mulally will come to Microsoft, but those hopes continue to dwindle. Kara Swisher of All Things D reports that Ford suddenly set a last-minute analyst meeting for this week without saying what would be discussed. Of course speculations are swirling about what this might mean. Does it mean that the rumors about Mulally and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) are going to come to a complete end, or will they just heat up further after that meeting?

Other names which have been circulated as possible candidates for the top spot at Microsoft include current enterprise chief Satya Nadella, former Skype CEO Tony Bates and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop.

Poll favors Bill Gates

Swisher posted a poll asking readers to choose Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s next CEO. Perhaps surprisingly, 23% of those who have voted favor the return of Bill Gates. In second place is Mulally, with 20% of the vote, and then third place goes to Nadella, with 17% of the vote. In the 9% to 10% range are “a dark horse person (like Pat Gelsinger),” Bates and then Swisher herself.

Funnily enough, Swisher beat out Elop slightly. Nearly 3% of those who responded want “Steve Ballmer 4Ever.” Let’s hope they’re joking about that one.

Microsoft employees wait

According to Swisher, there is much uncertainty underneath the surface at Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) right now. She said many of the company’s workers are ready for a change and hoping that the new CEO will be announced by the end of the year, as a rumor has suggested.

The lack of an obvious succession plan for after current CEO Steve Ballmer’s departure has been a trouble spot for Microsoft for years. Swisher says many people blame Ballmer for pushing out other top executives who could have been serious candidates for the position. Specifically, she names Kevin Johnson, Bob Muglia, Robbie Bach, Ray Ozzie and Steve Sinofsky, all of whom have left Microsoft in recent years.

Microsoft bleeding talent?

Some of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) other key leaders are apparently getting tired of waiting for change at the company. Nick Wingfield of The New York Times reports that Blaise Aguera y Arcas has left Microsoft to go to Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG). Although the engineer and software designer wasn’t rumored to be a candidate for Microsoft’s top spot, his departure is still a loss for the company. He was in charge of Microsoft’s Bing Maps. He will reportedly be going to Google to focus on machine learning.