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AMD expanding OS options by designing chips for Google's Android and Chrome OS

Advanced Micro Devices is finally open to making computer chips that run Google's Android and Chrome operating systems, according to news coming out of the Computex show in Taiwan.

A top AMD executive told PCWorld that the company "is expanding OS options" for its future chips based on both the x86 and ARM architectures. The chip maker has long built nearly exclusively to Microsoft's Windows operating system for PCs but, in recent years, has watched as rivals like Intel and Nvidia have embraced Google's competing platforms for mobile devices and PCs.

"We are very committed to Windows 8; we think it's a great operating system, but we also see a market for Android and Chrome developing as well," the tech site quoted AMD senior vice president and general manager of global business units Lisa Su as saying during an interview at Computex.

AMD "is also expanding its custom-chip business, and Android and Chrome OS offer flexibility for third-party chip design and integration," Su continued.

AMD, which has been late to the mobile device party, has had a tough time on the client side in recent years as smartphones and tablets have enjoyed massive growth while the traditional PC market it serves has stagnated. But the chip maker did recently pull off a coup with the custom-chip business referenced by Su, placing customised APUs in both Microsoft's upcoming Xbox One and Sony's next-gen PlayStation 4.

AMD has also been cosying up to ARM of late. Last October, the company announced that it is licensing the ARM architecture for future Opteron server chips and earlier last year joined ARM and others in forming the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) Foundation to "define and promote an open, standards-based approach to heterogeneous computing."

Its friendliness with ARM gives AMD something traditional rival Intel doesn't have. While Intel has been tweaking its x86-based chipsets for Android to gain a foothold in smartphones and tablets, AMD could potentially bypass that process entirely and simply pump out Android-ready silicon on an architecture that already dominates the mobile device market.

Whatever AMD does, it will have to make a splash in mobile soon or risk being left further behind. AMD's Windows tablet-targeted Z-01 and Z-60 chips haven't sold very well. The chip maker's latest "Temash" APUs for Windows tablets, meanwhile, offer plenty of processing horsepower but suck up 3.9 Watts — not exactly the kind of power draw many makers of battery-dependent devices are looking for.