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Samsung chip architect leaves for Apple

The battle over smartphones spilled over into chip design as a top Samsung designer split for Apple.

Apple A6 processor

Apple taps Samsung for the processors inside its popular portable devices, and it's apparently fond of the company's employees as well.

The Wall Street Journal notes that Jim Mergard, who joined Samsung last June to be its chief system architect, has left to go work at Apple. Before Samsung, Mergard spent 16 years at Advanced Micro Devices, where he was a vice president and chief engineer.

The move is the latest in a series of behind the scenes shuffles among some heavy hitters in the chip market. In early August Advanced Micro Devices hired former Apple chip architect Jim Keller to be its corporate vice president and chief architect, reporting to former Apple hardware chief Mark Papermaster. The month before it was AMD chip designer John Bruno, who left AMD to go to Apple as a system architect.

Apple, of course, uses Samsung's technology in its devices, part of a multibillion-dollar a year relationship. Besides screens and system memory, Apple also uses the company's processors -- that includes the A6, the custom ARM-based processor inside the iPhone 5, which Apple promotes as one of its headlining features. Apple designs those chips, while Samsung manufactures them.

Apple's last big investment into semiconductors was in early 2010 with the acquisition of Texas-based Intrinsity. Before that it was the 2008 buy of chip-design firm P.A. Semi.

Updated at 4:02 p.m. PT to clarify Apple's A6 processor design.