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Intel should be able to keep pace even without substantial architectural improvements thanks to its process technology - 22 and 14nm processors are already on the roadmap for 2013 and 2014 respectively. It should also be able to leverage the same process technology to push prices down.

I am not sure I understand. Moving to a new process node is challenging with low yields initially. It is better to fab processors with higher returns until the process yields improve. Therefore the Atoms for phones - tens of dollars - are on 32nm while Server/Desktop/laptop CPUs - hundreds of dollars - are on 22nm.

Moreover, Intel does more than just make CPUs. They make GPUs (although these are not currently built into Atom SoCs). They make baseband chips. They make flash memory. They make memory controllers.

Intel has the capacity, moreso than almost anyone other than Samsung perhaps, to deelpy integrate components into SoCs and then spit out end product. How about a future Atom with all of the above items built in - imagine how much surface area that would save on a PCB. Imagine the power savings and the cost savings too.

In phones: Qualcomm's 8960 - 28nm with integrated LTE baseband (Intel's lack LTE) and GPU - is shipping in products already.

Another factor working against Intel is that Apple and Samsung, 50% of the market, design their own application processors. The remainder of the market - Huawei, ZTE, Sony, HTC, RIM, LG, Lenovo, Nokia etc. - are in varying states of distress and would need a compelling reason to switch. While it is a mistake to write off Intel in phones (and tablets), so far they have been competitive rather than compelling.

The demise of x86 is a red herring.

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