Ford Has A Better Idea…for Microsoft

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Will Ford CEO Alan Mulally be trading in Explorer SUVs for Internet Explorer?

Mulally is reportedly a top choice to take over Microsoft after current CEO Steve Ballmer retires, according to a new report.

Ballmer announced in August that he’ll step down within the next year. In the month since that news, several people — including Mulally — have been rumored to be in the running to replace Ballmer.

But tech blog AllThingsD said Friday that Mulally now “has vaulted to the forefront of the candidates.” Mulally’s talks with Microsoft haven’t “entered formal contract negotiations,” but the discussions are “serious,” according to AllThingsD’s unnamed sources.

Microsoft (MSFTFortune 500) would not comment. Ford (FFortune 500) declined to comment on “speculative reports.” Shares of Microsoft were up nearly 3% Friday while Ford’s stock fell about 1%.

A Ford spokesman insisted that “nothing has changed from what we announced last November” — that is, Mulally will remain Ford CEO at least through the end of 2014. ButReuters reported earlier this month that Ford’s board was mulling letting Mulally step down earlier than planned.

However, even if Microsoft wants Mulally, that doesn’t necessarily mean Mulally is eager to jump to Microsoft.

Even if Ford does let Mulally retire early, several reports have indicated that he would leave Ford in order to take a role in the Obama administration.

And while Mulally was able to revamp Ford after the struggling automaker poached him from Boeing (BAFortune 500) in 2006, both of those more industrial businesses are very different from Microsoft’s.

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