Life doesn't have save points like a video game, nor mulligans like a friendly round of golf. Neither does business.

I think Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) CEO Paul Otellini wishes for a quick do-over right now. Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations conference this week, Otellini ruefully discussed the topic of mobile processors: "I wish we had started earlier."

In light of rampant smartphone sales, and the possibility that handheld computers might largely replace desktops and laptops somewhere in the next decade, that makes sense. You almost feel sorry for Otellini. Intel has largely stayed on the sidelines, watching Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN), Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM), and Samsung carve up the mobile market among them with implementations of technology from ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH). Intel's Atom line is doing fine in netbooks, but it's hardly made a dent in the smartphone market.

But you know what? Don't cry for Intel, because Otellini brought this on himself. More than just missing out, Otellini was Intel's CEO when the company unloaded its XScale line of ARM chips to Marvell Technology (Nasdaq: MRVL) back in 2006. The company backed out of the mobile market quite intentionally to bear down harder on server and PC chip rival Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD), which was stealing market share from Intel left and right with its then-fresh 64-bit architecture.

That was your own choice, Paul. Don't complain now.

Intel is pouring lots of research into getting Atom fit for the mobile battle now, but it missed out on the first couple of years of the smartphone rebellion. It's never too late to join the bandwagon, I guess, but Intel can never take the first-mover advantage away from ARM and its many licensees.

Does Intel have a shot at mobile leadership, or did that ship sail already? Discuss in the comments below.