Intel just announced that, over the next three years, it will slowly ramp down its motherboard business, shuttering it completely before the rest of the industry shifts to Broadwell-based platforms.
As the company pulls away from the motherboard market, it says it will divert resources elsewhere, focusing on other aspects of the PC industry, such as reference designs for Ultrabooks and all-in-ones, along with its Next Unit of Computing (NUC), which it showed off prominently at CES. Engineering talent previously dedicated to motherboard design will shift to those other form factors, which the company believes represent bigger growth opportunities.
This process is scheduled to wrap up between the Haswell and Broadwell processor generations. After that, Intel won't be selling any more branded desktop motherboards, but will continue to support existing products throughout their warranty periods.
What about the integrators who put a lot of faith into Intel processors, platforms, storage, networking, and chipsets all working together? According to a conversation we had with company representatives, Intel has enough confidence in third-party board vendors to facilitate the stability expected from its own motherboards. It's also seeing rapid uptake of technologies as soon as they're available. This used to be an issue, compelling Intel to speed adoption through its own designs. Today, PCI Express 3.0, USB 3.0, SATA 6Gb/s, and now even Thunderbolt are integrated as soon as they emerge.
Surely, all of this is going to feed further into speculation about Intel's commitment to the enthusiast desktop space. In our meeting with Intel at CES, however, the company reaffirmed the popularity of its K-series CPUs and socketed platforms (even if we were able to confirm that there won't be any LGA-based Broadwell chips).
Intel made clear that its desktop motherboard plans do not affect the launch of Haswell in 2013, and it expects support (firmware, drivers, and so on) of complementary platforms to continue through the normal life of those products (about 18 months from introduction). Intel will continue to design and engineer chipsets; it is the development of new desktop boards that will cease after Haswell.