Software maker Adobe Systems Inc. chief executive Bruce Chizen said on Monday that he would step down, and president and chief operating officer (COO) Shantanu Narayen will replace him on 1 December.

Narayen will retain his title as Adobe’s president and join its board in December, Adobe said. Narayen has been president and COO of the maker of the popular Photoshop, Flash and Acrobat programmes for almost three years.

Narayen joined Adobe in 1998 as vice-president and general manager of engineering. In 1999, he was promoted to senior vice-president, and in January 2005, he became president and chief operating officer. Before Adobe, Narayen co-founded Pictra Inc., a digital photo sharing software company. He also served as director of desktop and collaboration products at Silicon Graphics Inc. and was a senior manager at Apple Inc.

Wall Street reacted negatively to the loss of Chizen, a blunt-speaking executive known for keeping Adobe’s morale high.

Incoming CEO: Shantanu Narayen.

Chizen, who has been at Adobe for 14 years, will remain CEO until 30 November, then work halftime as a strategic adviser until the end of fiscal 2008. He will also serve on Adobe’s board of directors through the spring.

Chizen, 52, who has served as Adobe’s CEO for seven years as the company collected record profits, said he was stepping down “to take a break."

“This will be the first time in my life I’ve had a chance to take a step back and figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life," Chizen said. “As much as I love Adobe products and employees, I didn’t want to find myself at 55 saying, ‘Gee, I wish I had done something else besides Adobe.’ The role of CEO is all-consuming."

Adobe reported in September that its fiscal third quarter profit more than doubled on a 41% revenue increase, and bullish executives have predicted a sustained double-digit growth spurt. The company reported a record $851.7 million, up from $602.2 million in the third quarter of 2006.

Narayen, who holds five patents and degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, Bowling Green State University and Osmania University in India, called Chizen a mentor and friend. “The reality is that Bruce and I have partnered over the past few years over fundamental strategy," Narayen said on Monday. “With five years of double-digit growth, it’s clear to me that our strategy is working."