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Macromedia Hires Help from Microsoft

In an effort to improve the integration of its popular Flash software for personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cell phones, Macromedia Tuesday said that it has lured some seasoned help from Microsoft to shepherd its mobile and devices business unit.

Juha Christensen joined Macromedia as president of its mobile and devices business unit, where he will be expected to drive innovation for the company's Flash software.

The veteran comes from a legacy of mobile device and software development and most recently served as corporate vice president of the mobile devices division at Microsoft, where he brought the Pocket PC, Pocket PC Phone Edition and Smartphone to market.

Christensen announced he was leaving Microsoft in November to spearhead a start-up to render multimedia experiences on devices using low bandwidth, but said that after speaking with Macromedia President of Products Norm Meyrowitz, he fell in love with the company's developer community and potential for traction in the mobile space.

While Macromedia has had a presence in the mobile space, he said, they hadn't taken the steps to turn it into a major business -- until now.

"One of the things that blows me away is how passionate these multimedia developers are," Christensen told internetnews.com. "They're 800,000 strong and they don't jut build, they build to monetize stuff, such as creating product Web sites."

Before joining Microsoft in 2000, Christensen co-founded Symbian Ltd., a joint venture between Nokia, Ericsson, Sony-Ericsson, Matsushita, Samsung, Siemens and Psion.

The Symbian operating system, which interoperates across the leading vendors, is becoming an industry standard, according to mobile device experts.

Macromedia could use the expertise as it attempts to corral customers in a market where advanced, powerful hardware such as smartphones and advanced handheld computers have sparked demand for advanced multimedia software consumption.

Macromedia Flash players and content are already found in PDAs and phones, including the NTT DoCoMo 505i, 505iS and many Sony Clie PDAs.

Along with multimedia players from those competitors, Christensen said he sees Flash Player as playing a key role in contributing to new products that support interactive content, embedded Internet browsers and user interfaces.

Chistensen said Macromedia will target new Flash solutions to a range of users, including professional content developers to individuals without programming skills.

"My attitude is, wherever there is a screen you need a great multimedia experience," Christensen said. "Flash will be found in everything from phones to DVD players to screens in public places."

Christensen said he anticipates the classic management challenges of running a division. One of these, he said, is recognizing what not to do, or not trying to push the technology past the limit of customer demand.

"There are some 1.4 billion mobile devices in peoples' hands and those expereinces and applications are not compelling," he said. They are text-based interfaces -- hi-latency DOS. We know that peoples patience with phones is not great -- you can't have any latency or errors, so we need to address that and improve gaming and music multimedia."