When Samsung, the consumer electronics giant, decided to mount a serious challenge to Apple Computer's iPod music player early last year, it turned to a little-known Silicon Valley software start-up with a cluttered one-room office tucked away here in a building above a mortgage title company.
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Noah Berger for The New York Times
Paul Mercer, software designer, pictured on the Samsung Z5. The result of that partnership is Samsung's newest Z5 portable MP3 player, which will appear on store shelves March 5. The software inside the player was forged at Iventor Inc. by a small team of programmers led by Paul Mercer, 38, a veteran Apple Macintosh software designer.
Samsung's decision to hire Mr. Mercer is significant because Apple, in designing the original iPod four years ago, turned to Pixo Inc., the company Mr. Mercer founded after he left Apple in 1994 to create software for hand-held devices
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