The global economy is not the problem. Intel has yet to address the key difference between the PC market and the device market.
In the PC market, your chip is at the center of someone else's design. In the device market, you have to participate in the design or you're locked out. This has been true for a decade, but Intel has yet to crack the case. Instead it has watched companies like Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM), and even ARM Holdings (NASDAQ:ARMH) of the U.K. move to the fore.
The reason? Those competitors worked with device makers on their product roadmaps, and delivered not just chips but complete designs that could be quickly made in a very scaled way. Intel, meanwhile, has continued to run based on its own product roadmap, offering device makers good chips at good prices and expressing shock when those chips aren't chosen.
That will become a harder flaw to hide as the PC business starts to roll over.
The old PC was a typewriter, a TV, and magnetic storage. Devices are just the TV. The input is all done through the screen. The storage is done on chips. There are no moving parts in a device, whether you're talking about a phone or a tablet.
Devices also turn over more rapidly than PCs. I've had my current PC for two years, and feel no urgency about replacing it. If you bought a Kindle Fire for Christmas, that thing is obsolete.
If you're thinking Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is going to save Intel with Windows 8, think again. Windows Phone is wedded to Qualcomm chip sets. Microsoft is putting out two versions of the Surface tablet, and only one is based on Intel's chips. The other is using ARM and Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) chips.
It's a bit like slow drowning. The water was at Intel's ankles a few years ago. Now it's at its knees. It's still coming in, and the company hasn't figured out a way out of the trap. If Intel hasn't cracked the case in the next year, it will be time to sell out.