Intel expands motherboard empire

Intel says it will cross-license motherboard designs to a variety of board makers, strengthening its grip on PC design.

The CPU giant recently hatched plans to broaden licensing of its board designs after quietly making Intel-licensed motherboards available since the first quarter of this year. At the same time, Intel has told customers it will only offer warranty on Intel boards, and licensed board designs, with its own unique BIOS to counter boards that are being sold with x86 chips from rivals such as Cyrix and AMD.

The net effect could be that Intel lookalike boards will be available from a host of US, Asian and other board makers by the end of the year, although Intel couldn't supply numbers of OEM motherboard customers it has attracted.

However, Stephen McKinnon, group engineering manager of Intel Europe, said the step will not detract from Intel's own motherboard manufacturing output. "We have no plans to scale down our own motherboard manufacturing," he said. "The objective of the design is to make high-quality designs more broadly available. It does not signify any scaling back. Designing motherboards supports a fundamental roadmap: we're at the leading edge of CPU technology and want to provide leading-edge designs that support our CPU technology."

McKinnon said Intel board cloners will be subject to "limited variation" of the Intel schematic and should provide customers with "similar or same expectations" of an Intel board. However, firms will probably not be able to advertise their products to end-users as "Intel-designed".

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