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Sun's top software exec leaves for Adobe

John Loiacono is headed to the graphics software giant amid radical software changes at Sun, has learned.

John Loiacono, Sun Microsystems' executive vice president for software, is leaving the company to join Adobe Systems as senior vice president of its Creative Solutions Group, CNET has learned.

Sun confirmed the departure on Thursday and said Loiacono's last day will be March 24. Until a replacement is found, President Jonathan Schwartz--who held Sun's software chief role before Loiacono--will take over the job.

"We thank John for his many contributions to Sun and wish him well in his new endeavor," the company said in a statement.

John Loiacono

Adobe, headquartered not far from Sun in San Jose, Calif., is a graphics software powerhouse that sells popular titles such as PhotoShop and that acquired rival Macromedia in 2005.

Loiacono will oversee design products such as the Creative Suite, Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, InDesign and Macromedia Dreamweaver, Adobe said in a statement. He will report to Adobe President Shantanu Narayen.

Loiacono, who took over as software head in 2004, oversaw radical changes that aimed to bring greater success to software produced by the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company. Sun's server software business never produced products that achieved the popularity of rival offerings from IBM and BEA Systems, and its Solaris operating system lost market share to Linux.

Under Loiacono, Solaris became first free and then an open-source project called OpenSolaris. And Sun's Java Enterprise System server software is following a similar path.

Loiacono is the second major executive to depart Sun this month. Bob MacRitchie retired from his post as head of sales and is being replaced by Don Grantham.

At the same time, though, the boomerang effect is still in force at Sun: Peder Ulander, who left Sun in 2004 for embedded Linux specialist MontaVista, will return Monday as vice president of software marketing. He replaces Mark McLain, who left several months earlier.

"I'm looking forward to having some fun inside of software," said Ulander, reached by phone as he was snowboarding in Idaho. "I think everything Sun is doing with open source is pretty exciting."

MontaVista is searching for a new chief executive, and Ulander said it's likely that person will want to name his own vice president of marketing. "Being a vice president at MontaVista was a great experience, but this is a bigger opportunity," Ulander said.

Other returned execs at Sun include co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim, now a top designer of the "Galaxy" line of x86 servers; Chief Financial Officer Mike Lehman, who came out of retirement; Tom Goguen, the vice president of operating platforms products; and Karen Tagan-Padir, the head of Java software development.