Who will be Microsoft's (MSFT) next CEO, succeeding Steve Ballmer? The shortlist of candidates likely includes executives from Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), IBM (IBM), Oracle (ORCL) and more. Microsoft's board has formed a CEO search committee, which will work with Heidrick & Struggles (a top executive recruitment firm) to find Ballmer's replacement. Who are some of the potential candidate names? Hmmm...

It's difficult to pinpoint a list since Ballmer's decision to exit the company, announced Aug. 23, surprised the industry and many Microsoft insiders. Ballmer will stick around for up to 12 months, though a successor could be named sooner than that. 

Here's a shortlist of potential candidates pulled together by The VAR Guy, plus some spin on each candidate...

  • Rodney Adkins, SVP, Corporate Strategy, IBM: Adkins focuses on the new era of computing, new markets and new clientele. Microsoft needs help in all those areas. The VAR Guy's spin: An IBMer running Microsoft? That might be too conservative at a time when Microsoft needs a dramatic jolt. 
  • Nikesh Arora, senior VP and chief business officer, Google: The electrical engineer has previously worked for T-Mobile and a range of investments firms. He joined Google in 2004 and now oversees the company's revenue and customer operations, marketing and partnerships. The VAR Guy's spin: He's gotta be on the candidate list.
  • Tony Bates, executive VP, business development and evangelism, Microsoft: The former Skype CEO is a geek at heart, holds 10 patents and previously drove Cisco's small business group. The VAR Guy's spin: A geek with business management skills? He's gotta be on the candidate list.
  • Jeffrey M. Blackburn, SVP, Business Development, Amazon: He joined Amazon in 1998 and has made big career jumps ever since. From business development to customer service to operations integration, Blackburn has played a key role in Amazon's growth and evolution. The VAR Guy's spin: Microsoft's search team is going to call at least one candidate at Amazon. Blackburn seems to be the key name to know, other than some dude named Bezos...
  • Eddy Cue, SVP, Internet Software and Services, Apple: Cue oversees Apple's content stores: iTunes Store, App Store and iBookStore, plus Siri, Maps, iAd and iCloud Services. That's an impressive list of cloud services that deliver content to all types of devices. The VAR Guy's spin: Can Microsoft really pry this 24-year veteran from Apple?
  • Stephen Elop, CEO, Nokia: His career includes stops at Lotus, Boston Chicken (oops...), Macromedia, Adobe, Juniper and Microsoft. He's currently CEO of Nokia, Microsoft's key Windows 8 smartphone partner. The VAR Guy's spin: Elop has made more career stops than, um, just about anyone. And would taking a top Nokia executive help or hurt Microsoft's smartphone partner ecosystem?
  • Bill Gates, Super Rich Dude, Reformed Software Bad Guy and Current Global Do-Gooder: Rumor has it Gates was building technology giants, wrestling with the U.S. government and destroying competitors before Mark Zuckerberg was out of diapers. The VAR Guy's spin: The best person for the job, but at this point in life Gates won't accept the offer.
  • Julie Larson Greene, executive VP, devices and studios group, Microsoft: The 20-year Microsoft veteran leads Microsoft's Xbox and Surface initiatives. Super-smart and picked by Wired -- back in July 2013, before Ballmer announced his retirement plans -- as the next Microsoft CEO. The VAR Guy's spin: Definitely a candidate.
  • Mark Hurd, president, Oracle: He boosted profits and cut costs at NCR and HP. And at Oracle he's leading the day-to-day sales charge. Also mentioned as a candidate to replace Michael Dell if that PC giant's company sale goes off track. Hurd could definitely shut down Microsoft's money-losing or underwhelming businesses. But he's not an R&D technical visionary. The VAR Guy's spin: Not a candidate. Plus, Microsoft already has a sales champion named Kevin Turner...
  • Yangkyu (Y.K.) Kim, president and CEO, Samsung Electronics North America: The world's largest technology company has crazy strong brands (Galaxy) and strong consumer expertise. The VAR Guy's spin: This sounds like a longshot since Kim has stuck with Samsung for more than 25 years.
  • Paul Maritz, CEO, Pivotal: The VMware and EMC veteran was one of Microsoft's top 5 executives during that company's best days. Maritz also led VMware to some booming years -- though more recently VMware has been offloading some businesses to focus more sharply on software defined data center and hybrid cloud opportunities. The VAR Guy's spin: Does Maritz really want to return to his old stomping ground? The VAR Guy doubts it.
  • Terry Myerson, executive VP, operating systems, Microsoft: Myerson oversees Windows engineering and previously ran phones. The VAR Guy's spin: Phone experience is actually a drag in this case...
  • Satya Nadella, executive VP, cloud and enterprise, Microsoft: Windows Azure and Office 365 have pushed Microsoft nearly to the top of our Top 100 Cloud Services Providers list. The VAR Guy's spin: He's super smart but can Nadella push beyond his server and cloud experience to master mobile and desktop business needs? The VAR Guy says "yes" and thinks he's a strong candidate.
  • Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook: Could "Lean In" co-author and former Google VP jump next to Microsoft?  The VAR Guy's spin: If our resident blogger had to guess, Sandberg will stick around, build Facebook and wait for all of her shares to vest in 2024 or so.
  • John Thompson, Microsoft board member and former Symantec CEO: Thompson is leading the search committee for Microsoft's next CEO. Could he throw his own hat into the ring? Doubtful. The VAR Guy's Spin: Ballmer has indicated that Microsoft wants a long-term CEO. Thompson is 64 years old and previously oversaw Symantec's less than stellar acquisition of Veritas. 
  • Kevin Turner, COO, Microsoft: Outspoken. Hard-charging. And the best speaker at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. Each and every year. Plus, Turner is a Wal-Mart veteran who knows how to compete on thin margins and high-volume sales. The VAR Guy's Spin: Doubtful. Turner is a great No. 2. But he likely lacks the technical vision that Microsoft will require.

That's it for the shortlist so far. Got alternative candidates? Feel free to post a comment and The VAR Guy will surely respond.