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The Passive Backplane Concept: The PC's Future?
While "real" motherboards are the norm for PCs, there is another similar (but yet different) way to construct a PC. In many custom machines--high-end servers and the like--instead of having an integrated motherboard, a passive backplane design is used. In this design, the chipset, processor and cache are moved to their own separate "expansion card", and the motherboard is reduced to little more than a physical place for everything to plug into.
Some theorize that Intel may lead the PC market back in this direction, as it increasingly integrates more and more in its packaging. The Pentium II has the processor and cache on a daughtercard, called Single-Edge Card or SEC packaging, which begins this trend. It is rumored that future processors may incorporate the chipset as well; this is to be called Mobile Module or MMO packaging. At that point it will be hard to draw the line between what is a daughtercard and what is the actual motherboard itself, since the chipset is really the intelligence of the motherboard.
The MMO package is for the notebook market, with the goal of making notebook manufacturing easier, but there is no reason to believe the trend couldn't easily spread to the desktop world, especially since SEC is already a step in that direction.
Next: Parts of the Motherboard