Last week I wrote an in-depth analysis of the Intel Atom that explained why most of the press got the Intel vs. ARM story wrong. Here are some additional resources so you can learn more.
Let's start by looking at two different approaches to the mobile Internet device (MID) concept. First up is the HTC Shift:
Figure 1. The HTC Shift. Photo courtesy Intel.
The HTC Shift fits Intel's vision of a mobile Internet device. This Vista machine features a 7-inch touch screen. It can access HSPDA, EDGE, and WiFi networks.
The current iteration of the HTC Shift runs an 800 MHz Intel A110 and a 400 MHz Qualcomm MSM 7200 cellular modem. The Intel A110 is one generation back from Atom. (E.g., the A110 is 90nm, Atom is 45nm.) The next-generation Shift will run Atom.
My problem with this device is that it is far too big to fit into your pocket, yet small enough that typing is difficult:
Now let's look at the ARM-based MID, typified by this Qualcomm device:
Figure 2. A Qualcomm MID prototype. Photo courtesy Qualcomm.
This prototype features a 4" screen and a ARM-based Snapdragon processor running at up to 1 GHz. (UPDATE: This device does not yet run on Snapdragon, but will eventually get migrated to that platform.) Unlike the HTC Shift, this Qualcomm device is small enough to be "pocketable."
The pocketable form factor makes a lot more sense to me. Sure, the keyboard is way too small for extended use, but is it really that much worse than what you get with the Shift? The fact that you can put the Qualcomm device in your pocket means you can take it with you everywhere you go. With the Shift, you would have to think about whether you wanted to pack it or not. In my opinion, that makes the Shift nothing more than an undersized laptop.
As long as we've on the topic, here are some useful resources on the topic: