Back in November, PC Watch claimed that Intel would ditch socketed CPUs for Broadwell, the 14-nm successor to Haswell. Intel denied the rumor, pledging to offer socketed CPUs "for the foreseeable future." However, its statement didn't close the door on making some Broadwell chips available in BGA packages soldered onto motherboards. We now know why.
According to a trusted source in the motherboard industry, select Broadwell chips will indeed come soldered onto desktop motherboards. Lower-end models might not be available in socketed configurations at all, it seems. Our source did, however, reaffirm Intel's position that socketed CPUs aren't being dropped completely. We were told socketed processors are on the roadmap until at least 2016.
Interestingly, our source said selling motherboards with soldered-on CPUs gives larger board makers an advantage over their smaller rivals. Intel's higher-volume customers will be able to pull processors from larger pools of chips, allowing them to cherry pick parts for higher-end products. Motherboard makers may be able to sell boards with pre-overclocked CPUs—or at least with chips that have proven clock speed headroom.
RMAs will be more complicated with soldered-on CPUs, and it sounds like the details are still being worked out on that front. Our source said mobo makers may have to handle replacing damaged CPUs themselves, even if they're eventually reimbursed by Intel. Again, that could favor larger producers whose service facilities have the BGA soldering equipment required for the task. Those manufacturers probably have better RMA service anyway, though.
Moving some desktop processors to BGA-only packages makes a certain amount of sense, especially considering the increasing popularity of slim all-in-one systems and other small-form-factor designs. The lifespan of modern sockets has also shortened in recent years, with upgrades paths often limited to one or two generations before a new motherboard is required. It seems likely that whatever socketed chips remain in Intel's lineup will be higher-end offerings targeting gamers and enthusiasts.