Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) has hired Mark Penn as corporate vice president for strategic and special projects, reporting to Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer as the company readies new offerings for the tablet-computer market.

Penn was the top campaign advisor and pollster for Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign.

In the past, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was a client for a Penn firm, according to the website Wikipedia.

Penn, 58, was the worldwide CEO of the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller and CEO of the polling firm Penn Schoen Berland LLC, Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft said in a statement Thursday. Penn will focus on key consumer initiatives, Microsoft said.

Microsoft, the world’s biggest software maker, plans this year to release its own tablet, called Surface, and Windows 8, the newest version of its operating system, to help it win back consumers and narrow Apple Inc.’s lead in the tablet market. The company is also introducing an update of its Office software suite with social and cloud-computing features that will work with touch-screen devices running Windows 8.

“Mark has an incredible background in research, demographics, marketing and positioning and a proven history in developing unique insights that drive success,” Ballmer said in the statement. “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.”

Burson-Marsteller promoted Donald Baer as worldwide CEO, the public relations firm said in a separate statement today.

(Bloomberg contributed to this report.)