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Paul Maritz

Much of the speculation about Microsoft’s next CEO has focused on individual candidates for the job, but what if the company could land two veteran leaders with complementary technical and business experience, such as Ford CEO Alan Mulally and former Microsoft exec Paul Maritz?

That’s the scenario outlined in a research note this morning by Rick Sherlund, the longtime analyst now with Nomura Research (who previously suggested that Microsoft should sell off its Xbox and Bing businesses).

While acknowledging that hiring Maritz and Mulally may be “wishful thinking,” the analyst makes the case for matching Maritz’s cloud computing chops with Mulally’s business experience.

Sherlund writes, “Mr. Mulally could mind the store and manage changes in the business while the exciting development work is managed by Mr. Maritz. We think that this is a match that could work, and that investors would obviously be thrilled if it came about.”

The biggest hurdle might be convincing Maritz to return to Microsoft. The former top EMC chief strategist and VMware CEO is currently leading a new cloud computing company, Pivotal, launched by EMC and VMware.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally. (Credit: Fortune Live Media)

So how could Microsoft get Maritz aboard? Sherlund suggests, “It might be possible for Microsoft to buy Pivotal and leverage the work that has already been started and avoid the no-compete issues that might be problematic. By taking Microsoft in the open source direction, supporting both the Microsoft infrastructure stack and open systems, this could be an exciting new direction for the company and define the next-generation computing platform.”

As a kicker, Sherlund also suggests that Microsoft should buy Evernote and Box, and try to differentiate itself on iPad and Android —”not just try to shoehorn Office onto tablets, but rather take unique advantage of newplatforms to innovate independent of what has been done with Office on PCs.”

He writes, “It’s not about turning a tablet into a PC; it’s about innovation on new platforms that are not Windows and have use cases that are different than a PC. Mr. Maritz is likely to get this and have the courage to move beyond Windows and risk the cannibalization of the consumer Windows business to address the next-generation apps platform across iOS, Android and Windows.”

Sherlund urges Bill Gates and the Microsoft board to continue to pursue Maritz, and not take no for an answer.

And the analyst concludes with a final thought: “The reorganization at Microsoft is intended to facilitate collaboration and drive more common technology across the product lines and benefit ROI and consistent user experiences. We think this is great, but it is solving the wrong problem. Microsoft has an innovation problem. Solving the collaboration problem is not the fix that is needed right now, particularly with the organizational uncertainty added by Mr. Ballmer’s upcoming departure.”

Guest Commentary: Ford CEO Alan Mulally: Exactly what Microsoft needs

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