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Microsoft hires former Hillary Clinton adviser as top strategist

His mission: Put lipstick on Bing

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Microsoft is a company that divides opinion, which may explain why it has hired Mark Penn, a political strategist and pollster who served as senior strategist for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, as its new corporate VP for strategic and special projects.

"Mark has an incredible background in research, demographics, marketing and positioning and a proven history in developing unique insights that drive success," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said via press release. "With a strong set of products and an exciting pipeline for the next year, Mark's experience and out-of-the-box thinking will help us more effectively reach new consumers and grow market share."

The Wall Street Journal reports that Penn is charged with assembling a "SWAT team" of spin doctors strategists to massage Redmond's messaging, particularly in the area of consumer products.

Job One for Penn is the unenviable task of boosting the market share of Microsoft's Bing search engine, the flagship property of the company's loss-making Online Services division, the Journal reports.

Since it launched in 2006, Online Services has been a veritable lodestone around Microsoft's neck. It has cost Redmond billions, yet its revenue pales in comparison to all the other divisions of the company, and Bing's share of the global search-engine market can't hold a candle to Google's.

Before taking the gig at Microsoft, Penn was CEO of the PR firm Burson-Marsteller, which has brought in former Bill Clinton speechwriter Donald Baer to replace him.

Penn is also the CEO of polling firm Penn Schoen Berland, and coauthor of Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes, the bestselling book about "the impact of small groups in politics, business and social change."

"I'm looking forward to applying my diverse skills and experience to some of the biggest new challenges in technology today, and there is no better place to do that than Microsoft," Penn beamed in Microsoft's press release.

He has his work cut out for him. His client failed to nab the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, and she was powerhouse Hillary Clinton. Now he's working for Steve Ballmer. ®

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