(Pocket-lint) - Microsoft's John Thompson, the man charged with leading the search for the company's new CEO, says the decision for Steve Ballmer's replacement won't come until early 2014.

“We identified over 100 possible candidates, talked with several dozen and then focused our energy intensely on a group of about 20 individuals, all extremely impressive in their own right," Thompson wrote on Microsoft's blog. "As you would expect, as this group has narrowed, we’ve done deeper research and investigation, including with the full board. We’re moving ahead well, and I expect we’ll complete our work in the early part of 2014.”

Read: Microsoft CEO candidate round-up

Several candidates to replace Ballmer have been named in the media including Ford's Allan Mulally, Nokia's Stephen Elop, vice-president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group Satya Nadella, and Skype leader Tony Bates. It was suspected Microsoft would come decision before the year's close, but we now know that won't be the case.

When it announced Ballmer's retirement in August, Microsoft gave itself a deadline of August 2014. Ballmer has continued the CEO role until a successor is chosen. 

"Microsoft has had only two CEOs in its 38-year history," Thompson wrote. "As a board, we are determined and confident that the company’s third CEO will lead Microsoft to renewed and continued success. We’re looking forward to 2014 and the opportunities and decisions that lie ahead."

Writing by Jake Smith.