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Microsoft has poached a 17-year Adobe Systems veteran in a sign of where the company is placing its technology bets.

Mark Hamburg, who has worked on Adobe flagship Photoshop since its second version and who was a lead on Lightroom for managing large volumes of digital photos, has joined Microsoft.

Adobe beta tester Martin Evening tried to calm frayed Adobe nerves on the Adobe Lightroom blog by saying Hamburg's work won't involve digital imaging "but instead be focused on the 'user experience'."

Non-compete agreements probably prohibit Hamburg working on the kind of software at Microsoft that helped turn Adobe into the company it is today.

It should be noted, though, Microsoft's fledgling Expression design and build tools and its Silverlight rival to Flash both fall under Microsoft's "user experience" heading. The Expression family also includes Design, an illustration and graphic-design tool that Microsoft would like to have designers employ instead of Adobe's Illustrator.

Microsoft will want to pick Hamburg's brains to help refine its software in an area where Adobe has already done the hard work.

In a response to those concerned about the impact of Hamburg's exit on development of Lightroom, Evening said much of version 2.0 was completed before Hamburg's exit. "Lightroom 2.0 is not really going to be affected in any way by his departure," he said adding it's "a bit of time between now and Lightroom 3.0".

It is worth noting Adobe was forced to remove an update of Lightroom from its site in March, citing an "unacceptable" number of bugs.

Hamburg's move, and Adobe's concern, highlights the importance Microsoft is placing on tools and runtimes serving media content.

Microsoft has a history of bringing in the brains from rivals in markets where competitors have amassed much-needed experience.

Infamously, when the heat was on developer tools for Windows applications, Microsoft hired a number of staff from rapid-application development specialist Borland Software. Among these was former Turbo Pascal and Delphi leader Anders Hejlsberg who went on to birth C# - one of Microsoft's fastest growing languages.

Borland launched a lawsuit against Microsoft in 1997 to stop such hires, claiming it lost 34 employees in 30 months.

More recently, Microsoft has hired from IBM on open source and Linux and search rivals

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