Background Note | HBS Case Collection | July 2008 (Revised April 2009)

Horizontal specialization and modularity in the semiconductor industry

by Willy C. Shih, Chintay Shih and Chen-Fu Chien


Well-codified interfaces have enabled horizontal specialization in the global semiconductor industry. This Technical Note describes the modern integrated circuit value chain, and the motivation for the reuse of blocks of intellectual property in modern IC designs. It briefly examines ARM Limited as an example of an IP specialist supplier, and looks at the evolution to complete Systems-on-Chip and Systems-in-Packages so that students may examine the evolution of industry structure in the accompanying case System-on-a-Chip 2008: Global Unichip Corporation.

Keywords: Customer Value and Value Chain; Intellectual Property; Industry Structures; Horizontal Integration; Semiconductor Industry;


Shih, Willy C., Chintay Shih, and Chen-Fu Chien. "Horizontal specialization and modularity in the semiconductor industry." Harvard Business School Background Note 609-001, July 2008. (Revised April 2009.)