Intel has had no qualms about producing chipsets without ATA/100 support for the past four years or so, forcing motherboard makers to rely on third-party storage controllers. Could support for 32-bit PCI be next? The folks at Hardware Upgrade seem to think so.
According to the Italian website, "reports" suggest mainstream and high-end versions of Intel's 6-series chipsets, the "H67, H61 and P67," won't have built-in PCI support. Only the business-oriented "Q67, Q65 and B65" chipsets will keep the aging expansion bus. Even if this rumor is true, board makers should have no trouble chucking in some third-party silicon to implement PCI support—the Biostar H67 and P67 mobos we saw at Computex both rocked 32-bit PCI slots.
We asked Intel to comment, but the company wasn't willing to confirm or deny the rumor, saying the information below is all it's made public about 6-series chipsets:
MB Spec card model name: XXX (Company) Intel® 6 Series Chipset based Motherboard
Supports next generation Intel® Core™ processors (codename Sandy Bridge)
LGA 1155 Socket
SATA 3.0 (6 Gb/s)
Integrated 1000/100/10 MAC
As you might already know, the 6-series chipsets should arrive together with Intel's next-generation Sandy Bridge processors next year. Sandy Bridge will have an LGA1155 package, and we're told neither the boards nor the chips will be backward-compatible with current LGA1156 offerings.
The funny thing is that most motherboards for Intel CPUs still feature parallel ATA connectors, even in this brave new world of hexa-core processors and PCI Express 2.0 graphics cards. Even if Intel kills chipset-level PCI support, I suspect PCI slots could stick around for years to come.