You are correct Rick. NVIDIA indicates that a key reason they are adopting this business model is to allow others to pursue these and other custom opportunities because it can be a very difficult business. It also allows NVIDIA to focus on key markets for GPUs and Tegra.
Here's an excerpt from a report by Ross Seymore, analyst for of Deutsche Bank:
NVDA’s attempts to monetize this IP in its own mobile chips (Tegra)... has not delivered a significant return on investment due to hyper competition among tablet/smartphone SoC vendors. The royalty model appears better suited to the tablet/smartphone SoC market.
NVDA’s move is also a tacit admission that generating a meaningful return on investment is very challenging for fabless ARM SoC vendors. Given fabless vendors do not control their own costs and source key IP from others, there are very few barriers to entry or opportunity to differentiate. A direct illustration of this trend can be seen in Chinese vendors such as Rockchip and Allwinner rapidly gaining share and putting downward pressure on ASPs as they operate on much lower margins than US peers.
Interestingly, the next Microsoft, Sony and Nintedo consoles all use competing Radeon graphics chips from AMD.
This news takes some of the heat of the fact Nvidia just lost some big licensing deals for Kepler.
This is a good point, but with a high number of start-ups in emerging regions, particularly china, and a plethora of new applications in the internet of things, there is room for both. It's also important to note that NVIDIA is shipping products for mobile and automotive applications, so they are not giving up the bank or on the future of Tegra. The real questions are: how far with vertical integration go and can 3rd party IP or SoC vendors find a way to capitalize on the trend if it continues?
IP business is difficult, this is repeat of SGI and MIPS. Unless IP is decoupled from the company, people will not use this. This gives more time for NVDIA to get other pieces while generating revenue from IP. I doubt any big company will fall for this unless the IP is seperate entity... I could be worng...