Microsoft Corp. is close to settling on its final list of candidates to replace Chief Executive Steve Ballmer.

The company (NASDAQ:MSFT) has whittled down its list of external candidates to around five people, reports Reuters. According to sources familiar with the selection process, the list includes Ford Motor Co.'s current chief Alan Mulally and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop. The shortlist also includes three internal candidates at the world's biggest software maker. Former Skype CEO Tony Bates and Staya Nadella are reportedly included as well. (Skype is now a division of Microsoft.) Bates now heads Microsoft's business development and Nadella serves as the company's cloud and enterprise chief. 

Speaking with the Financial Times, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said he plans to work closely with the new CEO. But it remains unclear if the board has requested him to help train the next Microsoft CEO.

Sources say the process could continue for several more months, with the search committee holding interviews with executives across a wide range of areas like life sciences and consumer sectors. Microsoft has declined to comment on the selection process.