Help me understand ambient color

Hi all,
I’m a 3ds max veteran but I also dabble in Blender for some tasks. I’m trying to understand the “ambient color” in the world button.

In 3ds max, ambient color can be thought of as a light that comes from all directions at once. If you change its color to white, all object appear fully illuminated. Let’s say I have a sphere with a black&white checker texture and there are no lights in the scene:
If the world ambient color is black, it will appear as a a completely black sphere.
If the world ambient color is gray, it will appear as a a black&gray checkered sphere.
If the world ambient color is white, it will appear as a a black&white checkered sphere.

Now, when I try to do the same thing in Blender, the result is different. Ambient color does not illuminate the texture or natural color of the object: it overrides it. So if I have a white ambient color, the sphere won’t look like black& white checkers, it will be totally white, like it doesn’t have any texture at all.

How do I get to the point where I have an ambient color that interacts wiht the object’s real texture?

The World Ambient colour isn’t a light, it is an environment, or background. If you have reflective objects they will reflect the environment colour.
You can use the sky colour as lighting in the Ambient Occlusion settings.

The texture not showing may be a separate issue, how is it applied?

Blender doesn’t have such a thing. The closest you’ll get is to add a couple of Hemi lamps facing in opposing directions (one pointing up, one pointing down). To Blender’s renderer, the Ambient value is just the new baseline for how dark things are. It’s always (sort of) at black (RGB=0,0,0). When it’s white (RGB=1,1,1) it just maxes all of the color values.