By Joel Hruska - ExtremeTech |1st April 2016

Once upon a time (read: 20 years ago, when yours truly had more hair), Intel and AMD microprocessors used the same CPU socket standard and motherboard vendors supported multiple chip families with the same platform. If you owned a high-end Socket 7 motherboard, you could use an Intel Pentium, AMD K6, K6-2, K6-3 (as well as the K6-2+/K6-3+), Cyrix 686, 6x86MX, IDT Winchip, and the Rise Technology mP6. It was a golden, halcyon time and MSIs engineers have found a way to resurrect the concept with a lot of hard work and a little bit of Taiwanese magic.

Introducing The One: The first motherboard platform in 19 years to give end-users the freedom they want to upgrade components as they please.

No invention springs into existence from nothing and sharp-eyed readers will realize weve seen companies iterating on plans like this for several years. AMDs upcoming Zen CPU shares many design elements with the ARM-based K12 (we covered AMDs work to blend the two architectures well before the company went public, though the implementation details are still unknown.)

AMDs now-canceled Project Skybridge was originally intended to create a common platform for ARM and x86 CPUs, while the Boltzmann initiative allows CUDA code to run on GCN graphics cards. Just this week, Microsoft announced that Windows 10 would ship with Linux command line support thanks to a prominent partnership with Ubuntu.

The effort to create a universal computing platform goes beyond the component level. Several years ago the boutique OEM Razer debuted a customized PC system that would allow for individual component swapouts and custom liquid cooling combinations not dreamed of by gods or men.

While Project Christine never formally launched, the recent Razer Core is the product of a similar effort this time to combine the capabilities of desktop graphics cards with the svelte form factor of a modern ultrabook. Even Googles Project Ara is an example of this profound new design concept, which gives users what they want, when they want it. So, what does The One offer? Im glad you asked.

The One is designed to be backwards compatible with a wide range of AMD and Intel CPUs. MSI is still working out the details, but trusted sources have told ExtremeTech that the company intends to offer board modules to support first-generation Core i7 CPUs (Nehalem) and AMD chips as far back as the Phenom II. By subdividing the motherboard into specific zones (shown above), MSI can offer upgrade modules to customize your motherboard rather than requiring you to select between whatever features other companies see fit to offer.

DDR2 slots for an old CPU? No problem. Upgrading to a Core i7-5820K and wanting some hot DDR4 action? MSI has you covered. Planning to break overclocking records with AMDs FX-9590, but needing a low-profile cooler around the CPU to ensure your LN2 rig can mount properly? Baby, its all here.

Finally, while MSI isnt making any public promises, we have it on good authority that the company is investigating whether or not it can make the board design forward compatible as well.

Those of you who were computer enthusiasts 20 years ago will likely remember that while Socket 7 was technically compatible with a wide range of CPUs across multiple product generations and different manufacturers, practical compatibility was often limited by the motherboards voltage range and multiplier maps. AMD actually released a K6-2 400 with a hidden 2x/6x multiplier remap so that Socket 7 owners with systems limited to a 66MHz bus could still upgrade to a 400MHz CPU.

MSI isnt saying anything formally yet, but heres hoping they can pull it off. If they do, The One could truly be THE ONE the last and only motherboard youll ever need to own.