Qualcomm has said its chief operating officer Steve Mollenkopf, who had been touted as a possible candidate for the top job at Microsoft, will become the chipmaker's chief executive in March.

He will replace the company's current CEO Paul Jacobs, who becomes its executive chairman.

The surprise announcement comes a day after Bloomberg News reported that Microsoft has been considering Mollenkopf as a candidate to replace retiring CEO Steve Ballmer

While most of Qualcomm's revenue comes from chips that allow phones to communicate with carrier networks, most of its profit comes from licensing patents for its CDMA mobile phone technology.

Mollenkopf, an engineer in his mid 40s, will replace Jacobs on March 4, after the annual shareholder meeting.

Jacobs, 51, has been CEO since 2005, taking over from his father Irwin who co-founded Qualcomm in 1985.

Analysts said Jacobs' move to the chairman's role was in keeping with the trend among tech companies such as Broadcom and Juniper Networks, where founders or members of the founding family have moved away from the CEO role to become strategic leaders or visionaries.

Mollenkopf led Qualcomm in its $3.1 billion acquisition of radio frequency chipmaker Atheros Communications in 2011, its biggest acquisition.