Samsung's 005930.SE -0.38% long-awaited event in London this week was a bit more than your typical product launch–especially for some names in the chip sector that could use some good news amid tough times in the personal computer market.
Most of the South Korean electronics giant’s smartphones and tablets use chips it designs and builds, based on technology licensed from ARM Holdings ARM.LN -1.81%. But Samsung showed Thursday that is also willing to support the rival x86 design, which Intel INTC -1.94% and Advanced Micro Devices AMD +1.34% have long sold for personal computers
Samsung had already confirmed in early June that its new Galaxy Tab 3 would be powered by an Intel chip. The tablet uses Google's GOOG -1.07% Android operating system, the software found on most Samsung mobile devices. More bets were hedged by Samsung in London on Thursday.
The company’s announcements included a Windows-powered tablet called the Ativ Tab 3 that uses a version of Intel’s power-sipping Atom chip line. A more unusual addition was the Ativ Q, a device that not only converts between tablet and clamshell mode but also can switch between Windows 8 and Google’s Android operating system. It uses Intel’s latest Core i5 chip, based on a design dubbed Haswell.
Samsung’s decision underscores one advantage for x86 chips. Their longtime hallmark is running Windows and all the PC applications associated with that venerable operating system–a potential draw for businesses that want tablets but run their operations on Windows-based programs.
But x86 chips also run Android, as a result of Intel’s work and collaboration with Google. That opens up the possibility of running thousands of Android mobile apps–many more than have been created so far Microsoft's MSFT +2.36% touch-based Windows 8 operating system. ARM chips, as things stand, can run new Android apps but not old Windows ones.
(The Ativ Q is not the first device to embrace the dual-OS strategy. Asustek’s Transformer Book Trio, announced during the recent Computex trade show, can also switch between Windows and Android. It works as a notebook PC but also can come apart. The detachable screen, which can function independently like a tablet, is powered by a higher-performance Intel Atom chip; a keyboard-and-computer section, with its own Core chip, can plug into external monitors as well as the screen that comes with it).
Keep in mind that Samsung, while an Intel rival in mobile microprocessors, has long used Intel chips in Windows PCs. But it is placing some new orders for AMD chips as well.
In London, Samsung not only introduced an Intel-based laptop called the Ativ Book 9–under that company’s Ultrabook monitor–it also announced a model called the ATIV Book 9 Lite that uses an AMD chip. It also
--> unveiled a desktop “all in one” system called that Ativ One 5 Style that