Graphics chip specialist NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) is going back to Graphics 101. Lawsuits are forcing the company to hit the emergency brakes on its development of system chipsets, so NVIDA's future hangs on the success of its graphics products again.

NVIDIA has been a major player in system chipsets for many years, providing the basic building blocks of modern computer systems for computers based on processors from Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE:AMD). While AMD and market forces have pummeled NVIDIA's consumer graphics business lately, sending that segment into a money-losing tailspin, the chipset business just turned in a very strong quarter. And now, it seems to be over and done.

Citing "Intel's improper claims to customers" and "unfair business tactics" regarding licenses to support Intel processors, NVIDIA says it can't continue to invest in this line of business anymore. Development and sales of NVIDIA chipsets for Intel’s latest microprocessor technology has been halted -- and NVIDIA is dodging direct questions on whether it will continue to develop AMD chipsets.

NVIDIA claims to sell more AMD chipsets than AMD itself, and supplies products for Intel systems to system builders like Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), and Lenovo. This change of strategy will have a big effect on the industry as PC makers are forced to shift reliance on Intel and AMD chips until this dispute is resolved. If you ask NVIDIA, that will happen in court, with the trial set to start next year. Knowing the speed of our legal system, it could be years before NVIDIA makes a full return to this lucrative market.

Then again, people do change their minds occasionally, and I wouldn't be surprised to see NVIDIA and Intel settle the matter out of court and move on with their respective businesses as before. In fact, the whole brouhaha could be nothing more than a negotiating tactic from NVIDIA: Compromise on your demands or lose your license payments entirely.

Do you think we'll see NVIDIA make a full return to chipsets in our lifetime? Discuss in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in AMD, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Apple and NVIDIA are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Dell and Intel are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.