In a strangely uneventful update, Microsoft's board of directors this week claimed to have made "progress" in its search for a new CEO. But while the board did confirm that it has narrowed the search significantly, it declined to provide any details.

"The Board has taken the thoughtful approach that our shareholders, customers, partners and employees expect and deserve," John W. Thompson, the Microsoft board member who is leading the search wrote in a new post to The Official Microsoft Blog. "We've been focused on finding the best possible person to lead the company."

Thompson notes that the search has included people both inside and outside of Microsoft. The original search net included a pool of over 100 candidates, he claims, of which the board spoke with "several dozen." Since then, Microsoft has "focused its energy intensely" on about 20 candidates, and since then the candidate pool has "narrowed" further, though Thompson declined to say how many were still in the running.

The timing of the announcement is interesting. Thompson notes that there's "natural interest" in the firm's CEO search as we near the end of the calendar year. My suspicion is that this means Microsoft will not announce a new CEO until 2014.

And to be fair to Microsoft, finding a new CEO is difficult given the complexity of Microsoft's structure and product line mix. Thompson made that point in different ways throughout this week's announcement.

"Microsoft has had only two CEOs in its 38-year history," he 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."