There was lots of speculation a while back about the possibility of Steven Sinofsky, the Microsoft Windows president, being positioned to succeed Steve Ballmer as Microsoft CEO someday. As I mentioned at the time, it’s not clear if Sinofsky would even want the job.

Microsoft's Steve Ballmer and Skype's Tony Bates.

But what about Tony Bates, the former Skype CEO who now heads up the Microsoft Skype division following the acquisition of the company?

Kara Swisher of AllThingsD posed that question to Bates on stage today at D10 conference in California, and even though she had apparently let him know the question was coming, his response (or lack thereof) spoke volumes about his possible aspirations.

Here’s their funny exchange.

Swisher: Do you want to run Microsoft today? Would you be a candidate for running it?

Bates: You know, you did say you’d ask me that. Look, I’ve only been at Microsoft seven months.

Swisher: You’re almost a little too charming, honestly.

Bates: You mean to run Microsoft?

Swisher: Yes, indeed.

Bates: Thank you for saying I’m charming.

Swisher: No, for Microsoft, which is a low bar.

Bates: Look, the simple answer is I’m loving what I’m doing with Skype.

He went on to explain that he had aspired to become a CEO before he was 45, which came true in the case of his Skype position.

See more from Bates’ appearance in the highlights video above, including comments about Facebook, Kinect, and an interesting observation about the rise of ambient video, in which the connection is always on between members of a family in different locations.

To a certain extent, any speculation about Microsoft’s next CEO is premature. Ballmer has said he’s planning to stick around until 2017 or 2018, when his last kid goes to college.

If only the Skype chief’s name was Gil Bates, now that would be something.

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  • Moretent

    Can we hire a tutor for Ballmer’s youngest?

  • Guest

    “Swisher: No, for Microsoft, which is a low bar.”

    Way to stay classy, Kara.

  • Guest

    It’s not clear that Bates has the skill set for what will be required. Whoever takes over from Ballmer is facing a turnaround situation in many ways. Maybe not a RIM or Nokia-esque one quite yet, but certainly on that same path and with equal capacity to end similarly. Losing the smartphone and tablet market was the final straw in ensuring that. And if Sinofsky is getting the nod, they’d better announce it before W8 ships. Because if W8 tanks, so does Sinofsky’s credibility and Ballmer’s succession plan.

  • Do_Go_On

    Why would a decision on CEO hinge on whether his kids are in college? Is this a new kindness program at Microsoft where employees get to decide to stay until their kids are in college?

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