Sapa-AFP Washington

Microsoft is nearing a decision on its new chief executive, with Indian-born insider Satya Nadella the leading candidate, according to US media reports on Friday.

The Wall Street Journal said a decision was likely as early as this week and the board was leaning towards Nadella, who heads the US tech giant’s cloud and enterprise division.

Technology news website Re/code said Nadella was prepared to take the chief executive job but wanted founder and chairman Bill Gates to play a bigger role in management.

One possibility in the reshuffle, the reports said, would be to name a new executive chairman, possibly lead director John Thompson, a former chief executive at Symantec. But the Wall Street Journal reported that Thompson was balking at this role.

Re/code said Nadella had asked Gates to help with technology and product problems, but that in order to do that and manage his philanthropic efforts, Gates would need to step down as chairman at the company he founded in the 1970s.

Outgoing Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer announced last year that he was stepping down as the company struggles to keep up in the mobile devices sector.

Ballmer was a classmate and friend of Gates from their Harvard University days in the 1970s. He took over from Gates in 2000 but said he would step down by August this year.

Nadella was previously the president of its $19 billion (R210bn) server and tools business. He is a native of Hyderabad, India and earned degrees from Manipal University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Chicago University Booth School of Business.