Microsoft has named Chris Liddell as its new chief financial officer (CFO), starting 9 May.

Liddell previously served as CFO at International Paper. Prior to that, he was chief CEO of Carter Holt Harvey, International Paper's affiliate in New Zealand.

Liddell is replacing John Connors, who announced in January he was leaving after 16 years at Microsoft to become a partner at venture capital firm Ignition Partners. Microsoft was expected to name an internal applicant as previous outside choices have not prospered at the software giant.

Liddell's new job is something of a double-edged sword, according to Philip Carnelley, research director at Ovum. While he faces the luxury of overseeing Microsoft's $35 billion cash reserve and net income of around $1 billion per month, the high-profile slot will also place him under intense scrutiny.

"The appointment of a CFO from the paper industry - a mature cyclical industry - rather implies that despite public protestations, Microsoft recognises that it is indeed a mature company in a mature industry and needs to be managed accordingly, something John Connors alluded to in January," Carnelley assessed.

Liddell will most likely continue Connors' efforts to increase shareholder returns, perhaps by continuing his predecessor's move of handing out of billions of dollars in dividends to shareholders, Carnelley said. "We await the new entrant's moves with interest. One thing we're confident of - he won't be having trouble with debt payments or cash flow anytime soon, personally or corporately. News reports say that he will receive a salary of $500,000 and a signing bonus of $300,000, as well as stock awards to come."

Liddell holds an engineering degree from the University of Auckland and a master of philosophy degree from Oxford University.