Intel Ending Production of Desktop Motherboards

by Jerry Townson 3. December 2013 17:15

What’s the situation?

In January of 2013, Intel announced that it would be ramping down its presence in the desktop motherboard business. At the end of the year, the company will cease production of mITX, mATX, and ATX motherboards. Existing and future boards will continue to be supported, and all support downloads will remain hosted on the Intel server.  Intel's presence in this market sector will be limited to designing chipsets for use by third party manufacturers. Since these chipsets are widely used already, major names in the field stand to benefit immensely from Intel taking itself out of the competition. 

The decision by Intel to stop producing desktop motherboards wasn't surprising to many analysts. Intel was never a major player in the motherboard market. Most of its install base came from users who owned OEM PCs that came with "Intel Inside"--usually meaning the CPU. There was a time when a number of Dell, Gateway, HP, and other major brands had Intel motherboards installed on their home models.

More generally, the decision is a result of market trends. Intel's core business of selling CPUs depends on users having rock-solid hardware to slot the CPUs into. As recently as fifteen years ago, there were still relatively few companies capable of designing and building quality boards of that kind, but, what comes out of China and Taiwan today is often as good as what comes out of the US. Indeed, the last few years' worth of Intel motherboards are rumored to have been manufactured by Foxconn, using more stringent Intel design specifications and quality control. It's possible that any given Intel server from the last five years actually has "Foxconn Inside".

What does all this mean for the end user?

In the short term, not too much. The big component manufacturers--ASUS, MSI, and Gigabyte among them--still dominate the retail and white box business for motherboards, to the extent that power users trust third-party boards like the ASUS H81MA over Intel's own products.

In the long term, Intel will probably move the center of its business away from the desktop PC, leaving its chipset designs in something of a fragile place. If Intel decides to ultimately pull out of the motherboard market completely, ASUS and other component manufacturers will no longer be able to rely on Intel-designed chipsets. This would be a much more drastic move, and due to the probable outcome—end users waiting twice as long for new hardware that costs three times as much, and is barely improved--it’s unlikely to occur in the near future, if at all. 

What should I do about it?

If you purchase a new motherboard in the near future, we recommend selecting an ASUS or other third-party brand rather than an Intel board. For more information you can contact us with questions about your specific situation.