Liddell fills a role vacated by John Connors, who announced in January that he would step down as Microsoft's CFO to join Ignition Partners, a Seattle-based venture capital firm. Connors .
The new executive will join Microsoft on May 9. Liddell most recently served as finance chief at International Paper. Prior to that, he was chief executive of Carter Holt Harvey, the company's New Zealand-based affiliate.
"Having been both CEO and CFO of international companies gives him the ability to contribute broadly to our finance, operations and business strategy," Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said in a statement.
Liddell said he didn't have any immediate objectives beyond continuing the work that Connors had been doing.
"I'm being very careful not to say I have all the answers," Liddell said in a brief telephone interview on Monday.
Liddell, who currently lives in Greenwich, Conn., praised Microsoft's splitting some time ago into several business units, saying the move provides investors with a better view of the company and gives greater focus to those divisions. As for the move to offer employees restricted stock as opposed to options, Liddell said the move addresses the stock-based compensation issues for the short-term. But, he added, "New ideas and new ways of doing things evolve."
Before Carter Holt Harvey, Liddell was a managing director and joint chief executive officer at Credit Suisse First Boston in New Zealand. He holds an engineering degree from the University of Auckland in New Zealand and a master's degree in philosophy from Oxford University in England.
While Microsoft's sales continue to boom--revenue is expected to top $39 billion for the fiscal year ending June 30--the company faces many challenges in the coming years. Liddell will join the software giant as it comes up against new competitors and plots a strategy to keep its cash cow franchises, Windows and Office, on track for profits.
One cornerstone of that plan is a new version of Windows, code-named Longhorn. On Monday at a company-sponsored in Seattle, Microsoft's chairman Bill Gatesand laid out a plan to move the company's software onto more powerful .
CNET News.com's Ina Fried contributed to this report.