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Hans Vestberg, Ericsson CEO.

The latest Microsoft CEO candidate to emerge from the rumor mill is Hans Vestberg, the CEO of telecom company Ericsson, who was reported by Bloomberg News last night to be among the possible being considered to succeed Steve Ballmer.

Without any official confirmation from anyone involved in the process, it’s hard to know how seriously to take these leaks. But the pattern that’s starting to emerge is interesting. The names being floated are no longer high-profile wild cards like Ford’s Alan Mulally (who has officially bowed out), but instead tech executives who have experienced success in more understated ways.

Past examples include Steve Mollenkopf of Qualcomm, who was promptly named that company’s next CEO after his name emerged on the Microsoft short list.

Vestberg is an Ericsson lifer, having joined in 1988. His credentials a stint as CFO, and a 19 percent increase in Ericsson’s share price under his tenure as CEO. The company has $35 billion in annual revenue. He also oversaw the unwinding of the Sony Ericsson joint venture — experience that might be welcomed by shareholders hoping to see Microsoft shed some of its businesses. He also loves sports and is chairman of the Swedish Handball Association.

“From a working point of view I have spent all of my life at Ericsson,” he says in a video on the company’s site. “I will never regret that because it’s a fantastic company. I worked in basically all areas of the company except R&D. Supply, logistics, finance, sales, marketing, business units, marketing units.”

Internal candidates still in the mix include Microsoft cloud-computing leader Satya Nadella and Steven Elop, the former Nokia CEO, who is returning to Microsoft as part of the Nokia acquisition.

At this point, my best estimate is that we’ll get an announcement from the company sometime in February.

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