jfruh writes: In 2000, when Bill Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft, he had been grooming Steve Ballmer as his replacement for years. But Ballmer's resignation was abrupt and unplanned, and there is no successor currently in place. Who will take over when Ballmer leaves sometime in the next twelve months? Will it be an internal candidate or an outsider — or a prodigal son who left the company but is ready to return? If it's an outsider, will it be a familiar face from the tech industry or a rising star? Does the company want a tech visionary or a business savvy manager? Nobody knows yet, but IDG's Juan Carlos Perez offers a rundown of the potential candidates.