Sometime in the 1990s, the CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, TJ Rodgers, claimed: "Real men have fabs." His argument was that, although some companies had seemed to be doing OK by renting space at other people's chipmaking plants, to get real control over what you are doing you need to have a fab you can call your own.
Until recently, most companies with fabs agreed with Rodgers. They saw themselves as having the keys to unlock Moore's Law. To put yourself at arms length with the technology that drives electronics would be commercial suicide. But, in the years that followed Rodgers' claim, a growing number of companies have cheerfully bought processed wafers either from old-style integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) - companies like Cypress - or from specialist 'pure play' foundries. And they have not done too badly. This is what Scott McGregor, president and CEO of fabless chipmaker Broadcom sought to tell executives from other companies in the industry at the recent International Semiconductor Executive Forum in Munich, organised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the Fabless Semiconductor Association (FSA).