by Anton Shilov
12/21/2012 | 08:30 AM
Asustek Computer believes that the mainboard industry will find a way to offer high-performance solutions for do-it-yourself (DIY) and enthusiast markets even if Intel adopts the strategy under which it will only sell processors in ball-grid array (BGA) packaging, which eliminates upgrade possibilities. However, Asus does not really believe that Intel would completely eliminate processor sockets.
Joe Hsieh, vice president of mainboards business at Asustek, said in an interview with Digitimes.com.tw web-site said that Intel would almost certainly offer processors in both BGA as well as LGA [land grid array] packages even after 2014 – 2015, when the world’s largest chipmaker is rumoured to start pushing BGA chips soldered to mainboards into the desktop segments. The high-ranking executive noted that interchangeable microprocessors still drive a lot of profit opportunities for Intel as well as its infrastructure partners, including mainboard makers.
Even in the worst case scenario – if Intel’s chips are only supplied in BGA types of packages – large makers of mainboards - such as Asus, Asrock, Gigabyte Technology, Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) or MicroStar International (MSI) - will continue to offer solutions for the DIY market as end-users will still be able to change graphics cards, memory modules, hard drives, solid-state drives and so on.
Intel said earlier this month that despite of the recent rumours, it would continue to produce and sell interchangeable microprocessors in land grid array packaging and will not transit to soldered chips in ball grid array (BGA) only in the foreseeable future. At the same time, Intel did not comment on longer-term future, which may easily indicate that CPU sockets are going away in case of certain market segments.
It is obvious that Intel will continue developing server-class processors in LGA packaging, which automatically means that the company will continue to offer high-end desktop platforms with CPU sockets. In the meantime, at least in case of the low-end and/or low-power platforms, it makes sense to sell microprocessors with mainboards. For example, both Intel and its arch-rival AMD already sell low-cost/low-power Atom-series and Fusion E-series products in BGA package that are soldered directly to mainboards.
Recently it was reported that the code-named Haswell microprocessors may be the last mainstream desktop chips in LGA packaging, which enables easy switch of CPUs on mainboards. Starting from Broadwell chips, which are due in 2014, all mainstream desktop processors will be available in BGA packaging only, which means that they will have to be soldered to mainboards, something that can be done in relatively sophisticated manufacturing facilities.
The BGA MCMs [multi-chip modules] should provide advantages to makers of high-performance tablets, ultra-thin notebooks as well as all-in-one desktops as ball grid array packaging ensure small footprint. However, when it comes to fully-fledged desktops, BGA means that system makers will have to keep a large amount of different mainboards with various features and dissimilar microprocessors in order to provide the right choices for their clients. Such stockpiling increases business risks to smaller makers and decreases abilities to differentiate for mainboard makers.