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Blaise Agüera y Arcas at TED Global earlier this year.

Google has made a big hire from Microsoft, bringing aboard Blaise Agüera y Arcas, the well-known software architect and designer who was among the Redmond company’s elite ranks of distinguished engineers.

Agüera y Arcas is known for his work on services including Photosynth and Bing Maps. Although the hire hasn’t been announced publicly, the New York Times’ Nick Wingfield reported the news over the weekend, saying he will be working on machine learning in his new role at Google.

A Microsoft spokesman, Adam Sohn, told the newspaper, “He was a great colleague and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

In a post on his blog, Agüera y Arcas confirms the NYT report and describes the decision as the hardest of his life.

“On one hand, of course this is tremen­dously excit­ing; Google is a com­pany of grand ambi­tions and bril­liant peo­ple,” he writes. “On the other hand it has been hard— very hard— to detach emo­tion­ally from Microsoft.  The company’s lead­er­ship has been con­sis­tently good to me over these past eight years, and it has been a time filled with cre­ativ­ity and growth and good friends.  It’s painful to leave behind so many won­der­ful ongo­ing projects, and even more so to leave behind such a great team.”

Agüera y Arcas joined Microsoft in 2006 when the Redmond company acquired his startup, Seadragon Software. Early on in his career at the company, he became known for giving impressive demos of projects including the Photosynth photo-stitching software and the related Deep Zoom technology.

The NYT reports that he oversaw the recent update to Photosynth, released as a preview by the company last week. TED just released a video of him demonstrating the technology at a conference earlier this year.

In years past, this type of move might have prompted a legal fight based on Microsoft’s standard non-compete clause in its employment agreements, as in the epic battle between Google and Microsoft over the departure of Kai-Fu Lee for the search giant. However, there’s no indication that Microsoft is preparing to  go that route in this case.

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