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Apple Pinches Top Samsung Chip Designer

Jim Mergard, who was at AMD for 16 years, is regarded as an expert in PC chips, APUs and SoCs

Apple has poached a top chip designer from Samsung, its nemesis as well as its foundry.

It's waltzed off with the guy who was chief engineer at AMD until June of 2011, when he went to work for Samsung down Texas way as chief system architect.

Jim Mergard, who was at AMD for 16 years, is regarded as an expert in PC chips, APUs and SoCs.

It's not clear why exactly Apple hired him - aside from spite - or what his job's going to be at Apple. But the Wall Street Journal quotes one of Mergard's former colleagues from AMD, Patrick Moorhead, now in the research business at Moor Insights & Strategy, as saying, that besides Mergard's SoC skills, "He would be very capable of pulling together internal and external resources to do a PC processor for Apple."

(Hmmm, and what about micro-servers?)

Mergard reportedly led the development of AMD's Brazos APU designed for low-end notebooks.

Apple currently uses Intel x86 processors in its Macs. And a loss of Apple would devastate Intel.

Anyway, Samsung is reportedly resigned to eventually losing Apple, its biggest customer, bringing it billions of dollars a year.

It told the Korea Times that Apple has closed it out of major projects like the design of the latest A6 processor built into the new iPhone 5 to ensure that the chip isn't tainted with any Samsung IP and is just using Samsung as a foundry.

The Korean giant says it contributed technology to the A6's predecessors the A5 and A5X.

The hostility in the companies' relationship comes from Apple's accusation that Samsung stole its IP to build its smartphones and tablets, kicking off worldwide litigation between the two companies.

Apple recently signed up Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to make next-generation quad-core processors. Barclays believes it will start churning out 20nm A7 processors in 1Q14. Whether TSMC can produce a large number of high-quality chips quickly like Samsung can remains to be seen nut obviously Apple would rather write a check to TSMC than Samsung.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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