No better way to start the post-Thanksgiving week than with a strange, eyebrow-raising, and possibly worrying rumor. Yes, according to the folks over at Japanese site PC Watch, Intel is going to abandon socketed processor packages with its 2014 architectural refresh.
PC Watch is talking about Broadwell, the 14-nm successor to Haswell (which will itself supplant Ivy Bridge next year). Reportedly, Broadwell will only be available in BGA, or ball-grid-array, variants. If I'm reading this right, you'll only be able to buy Broadwell processors soldered onto motherboards—no more retail-boxed, easily interchangeable CPUs.
PC Watch goes on to say Intel will bring the platform controller hub die onto the processor package, as well, which will make Broadwell a sort of proto-SOC. The chipmaker is expected to target power envelopes between 10W and 57W. Right now, Ivy Bridge spans the gamut from 17W (for ultrabook variants) to 77W (for high-end desktop chips). That's down from a maximum of 130W for six-core, LGA2011 Sandy Bridge CPUs, which still lack Ivy-based successors.
Unless this story is complete bunk, it looks like Intel will double down on low-power, small-form factor systems at the expense of traditional desktops. That would probably be good for computing in general, but sadly, it would mean we enthusiasts get the short end of the stick.
Of course, we already know what it's like to build a PC with a processor soldered onto the motherboard. Such boards are widely available today—just search Newegg or Amazon for Mini-ITX Intel Atom or AMD E-series offerings. The reduced flexibility is unfortunate, but it doesn't make building your own PC impractical—not even remotely. (Thanks to X-bit labs for the tip.)