[caption id="attachment_12716" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Alan Mulally.[/caption] Ford CEO Alan Mulally is a front-runner to take over Steve Ballmer’s CEO role at Microsoft, according to anonymous sources speaking to AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher. Mulally, 68, has experience in running large enterprises: before taking the reins at Ford, he was CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. He’s also used to shepherding massive companies through periods of industry upheaval: during the worst of the recent American auto-industry crisis, Ford managed to avoid bankruptcy without taking the same federal bailout as rivals Chrysler and General Motors. As corporate entities, Ford and Microsoft already have something of a relationship. Microsoft designed Sync, an in-vehicle software system that allows drivers to make hands-free phone calls and program music selections (among other uses) via voice commands. Ford has made Sync available as a feature in a number of vehicles. The big question is whether Mulally could apply his particular brand of corporate leadership to one of the world’s largest software producers. Other reported front-runners for the Microsoft CEO slot include outgoing Nokia CEO Stephen Elop (who really needs to revise his infamous “burning platform” memo) and former Skype CEO Tony Bates (now a Microsoft executive). Whoever takes the commander’s chair faces a number of challenges, including Microsoft’s anemic performance in some of the consumer market’s hottest segments, such as tablets and smartphones; while the company’s performance in the enterprise is somewhat stronger—thanks in large part to Office and other longtime franchises—it also faces a number of fierce competitors in that arena, including Oracle and IBM. For his part, Mulally’s offering little public insight into his plans. "We are having so much fun creating an exciting, sustainable, and profitably growing Ford for everyone," he wrote in an email to Reuters, which reported that Ford’s board of directors was open to letting him step down before his CEO contract expires in 2014.   Image: Darren Brode/Shutterstock.com