Apple snags top chip designer from Samsung

Thursday brings another development in the Apple-Samsung rivalry: one of Samsung’s top chip designers, Jim Mergard, known throughout his industry, is leaving to work for Apple(s AAPL), the Wall Street Journal reports.¬†Mergard had recently moved over to Samsung from AMD(s AMD) after a long career, where he was a VP and chief engineer.

Both Samsung and Apple have been looking to improve their chip teams. What Mergard is known for — he was one of the people behind AMD’s Brazos chip for “low-end portable computers” — seems well suited to Apple’s focus on low-power chips for mobile devices.

Apple buys a heck of a lot of silicon every year — by some accounts the company is the largest buyer in the world. A lot of what it buys — mobile chips for the iPhone and iPad — has historically been from Samsung, which has played the role of crucial supplier partner and competitor to Apple.¬†A high-profile hire of someone like Mergard directly from a competitor no doubt increases that tension. It’s not quite as awkward as convincing a jury that your valued partner owes you $1 billion for patent infringement, but it’s still another sign that Apple isn’t treading lightly when it comes to competing with Samsung.