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Microsoft’s board is considering Qualcomm Chief Operating Officer Steve Mollenkopf among candidates to replace Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, said people familiar with the matter.

Mollenkopf is on a list of several choices under serious consideration as the board works to make a decision on CEO as early as this year, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the process is confidential.

That list also includes Microsoft executive Satya Nadella and other outside candidates, said one of the people.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally’s candidacy for Microsoft’s top job has faded in the past two weeks amid concerns about his lack of technology experience, said three of the people.

There are still scenarios in which the board could opt for Mulally, including if he takes the job for several years and helps ready an internal candidate, said one person.

Last month, Mulally was one of the more likely candidates, along with Nadella and outsiders, people familiar with the search have said.

The world’s largest software maker is going through its biggest transition in decades. It is completing the purchase of Nokia’s handset unit, its largest acquisition by number of employees.

Qualcomm, which develops chips for wireless devices, is a leader in wireless technology, an area in which Microsoft has fallen behind.

Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw declined to comment.

Emily Kilpatrick, a spokeswoman for San Diego-based Qualcomm, also declined to comment.

Jay Cooney, a spokesman for Ford, said of Mulally, “Alan remains completely focused on executing the One Ford plan. Nothing has changed from what we announced 13 months ago. We don’t comment on speculation.”

Ford said in November 2012 that Mulally would remain CEO through at least 2014.

Mollenkopf, 44, is the second in command at Qualcomm.

He heads a division that has built products at the heart of many of the world’s leading smartphones.

Mollenkopf joined Qualcomm in 1994 as an engineer. He rose through the ranks to become head of the chip business, QCT, in 2008.

While leading the group, Mollenkopf bought chipmaker Atheros for $3.1 billion in 2011, Qualcomm’s largest acquisition to date.

Mollenkopf’s compensation last year totaled $14.2 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

At Microsoft’s most recent analyst day, Ballmer cited Qualcomm, along with Apple and Samsung Electronics, as one of the companies that had taken advantage of the shift to mobile computing in the form of tablets and smartphones.

The AllThingsD blog earlier reported that Mulally’s chances have faded in the last few weeks.

Nadella said this week that he will stay at Microsoft regardless of who gets the CEO job.