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Microsoft's government head to jump ship

Maggie Wilderotter, leader of the software maker's government sales effort, is leaving to be CEO of a rural telecommunications company.

The executive who leads Microsoft's government sales efforts is leaving to become CEO of a telecommunications company, the software maker said Tuesday.

Maggie Wilderotter, senior vice president of Microsoft's worldwide public-sector unit, will head Citizens Communications, a Stamford, Conn.-based company that specializes in providing telecommunications services in rural areas and smaller cities.

"Microsoft has been a wonderful experience," Wilderotter said in a statement. "I'm only leaving because I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get back to my telecommunications roots as a CEO of a company with great assets and a lot of potential."

At Microsoft, Wilderotter was responsible for developing Microsoft's strategy for governments, schools and nongovernmental organizations.

Microsoft has been struggling to come up with ways of approaching sales in emerging markets, where Linux has emerged as a formidable competitor. While the company said it is still searching for answers, it has developed a low-cost Windows version known as Windows XP Starter Edition, which it currently sells in three markets.

Before joining Microsoft, Wilderotter was CEO of Wink Communications, a television e-commerce company that was sold to Liberty Media in 2002 for $100 million. Wilderotter joined Microsoft that year as senior vice president of business strategy.

She has also served as a director of Electric Lightwave, a subsidiary of Citizens that was once publicly traded.

"Maggie has enjoyed a successful tenure at Microsoft and made many strong contributions in the government and education sectors," the software maker said in an e-mailed statement.

Wilderotter will be replaced by Gerri Elliott, who is currently corporate vice president of Microsoft's U.S. enterprise group.

Elliott joined the software maker in 2001, after 22 years at IBM. At Microsoft, she was responsible for a 2,500-person sales force and was also charged with developing industry-specific approaches for the financial services, health care, automotive, retail and hospitality sectors.

"Public-sector agencies have a unique set of goals and challenges," Elliott said in a statement. "Microsoft is committed to working with government and education leaders to provide solutions and programs that meet their needs."