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An heir apparent at Microsoft?
Report: Server unit boss Eric Rudder, 38, seen as early leader in race to one day lead company.
May 25, 2005: 7:16 AM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - A published report said that the head of Microsoft's server business could be an early front-runner to eventually run the world's No. 1 software company, although current leadership has given no indication they are anywhere close to leaving the company.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Eric Rudder, 38, a senior vice president at the software company, is being seen as a leading candidate among Microsoft executives. Microsoft Chairman and co-founder Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer are both only 49 and not likely to leave the company any time soon, the newspaper said.

Rudder's group has grown at 15 to 20 percent annually for the last few years, reaching $10 billion a year in sales. He's also seen as a leader in making an outreach effort to Microsoft customers, moving away from the company's corporate headquarters near Seattle to its office in Paris to be closer to its full range of global customers.

Before he took over the server business two years ago, Rudder served as Gates' technical assistant for four years, which the newspaper reports was seen as a sign he was being groomed. That tenure is the longest that anyone has served in that position.

The newspaper lists some other top executives who could also be candidates to eventually succeed Gates and Ballmer. They include Steven Sinofsky, a senior vice president leading the Office business; Chris Jones, a vice president guiding Windows development; Yusuf Mehdi, a senior vice president in charge of MSN; and J Allard, a vice president who heads the Xbox team.

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