The motherboard business probably never was a great source of revenue for Intel. They anyway had to make a few reference designs for their motherboard controllers/CPUs. 'Might as well manufacture a few and sell them', was the school of thought till now I guess.
Someone with a better historical memory, feel free to correct me, but if I recall correctly, one of the justifications for Intel getting into and staying in the motherboard business was to speed the adoption of new chips and chip sets. If that's true, it would certainly make sense for them to do something similar with their low-power Atom offerings in the mobile space.
@Duane: You recall correctly. For some time Taiwan Inc. was irritated that it had to complete with Intel in mobos.
I don't know if an Atom board business makes sense given smartphones have no standard board sizes Intel can readily stamp out.
Rick - good point about the non-standard sizes with tablet and phone motherboards. I certainly don't think even Intel is in a position to create a standard there. The available space is so small that just about every applications needs to be custom.
I see this as largely a non-event. While it was in Intel's interest to create reference designs for use of their chips, how big was the motherboard business for them? I'd guess it's a tiny part of their overall operations.
For systems I've built, I tended to prefer mobos from Asus. For systems I've bought, it hasn't always been clear who made the motherboard itself, even though Intel chips were used, and the bet is that the vendor sourced based on price, and I can't imagine Intel was ever the low cost supplier.
It will be curious to see what they do in mobile space, where their big challenge is getting Atom adopted in the first place. Smartphones are mostly ARM based, and tablets all over the map. Given the variety of form factors, making reference design mobos for the mobile space will be a challenge.
I agree with the non-event comment. This is the significant point of the article:
"The company said the employees focused on PC motherboards would be redistributed to address emerging new form factors, including both desktop and mobile computers. Those engineers will also be refocused to expand Intelís form factor reference design work and enable the company's partners to develop new computing solutions, Intel said."
It's not like Intel was a key supplier of motherboards anyway.
Full sized ATX and uATX motherboards have long made the desktop computer far larger that is necessary for the vast majority of consumers. Companies like Visio, Apple, and any of the All-In-One makers have been pushing the general market downward in size. Hopefully these new form factors can compete similarly on price because despite all the drawbacks of large atx motherboards, they were flexible and relativity cheap. I also wonder how expand-ability will accommodated on these new form factors or if the discrete graphics market will suffer because of this decision.
I suppose this goes hand in hand with Intel's announcement that after Haswell there would be no more socketed Intel processors. (though that was later denied by Intel, which seems odd now)