Lock Me In, My Vendor!

Lock Me In, My Vendor!
18 Jan 13

There is often talk about the somewhat interesting notion that you can be locked to a certain vendor, and apparently unable to move away from said company. This vendor lock-in is used as an argument to keep people from buying products or getting services from any given company. It is a very real thing when you just can’t choose anything else, depending on how your information, whatever it it, is stored and how that information just can’t work on any other system.

Some popular uses of the “argument” is in discouraging people from buying music in iTunes or books from Amazon, or to buy either iOS devices or Android devices. Oddly enough, I don’t hear it as often about the somewhat obvious targets like Microsoft or RIM, but I guess that just indicates where consumer attention is.

But are you ever truly locked to any specific vendor? I would like to argue that it’s as close to a myth of modern technology as you can get, except if you are a large corporation and actually have long-term contracts to a given vendor. That’s a real vendor lock-in, but still one that is chosen. Regarding video games I’m willing to say that there is a certain vendor lock-in due to that some games are only available on some consoles, so you have to get a certain console from a certain company to play a given game. But even in this case you always have the option to not play and not buy.

Files can be stripped of their DRM, the preventive measures of the vendor can more often than not be side-stepped if you want to, and of course you can always just buy another device and move on. It’s a choice you have, a freedom, and there’s no vendor to stop you from doing it. There might, depending on your geographical location, be some legal restrictions on what exactly you are allowed to do with the files and devices you own, so your milage may vary.

For most people there really isn’t anything keeping you locked to any platform, just a will to not change. True vendor lock-in doesn’t give you any kind of a choice, except perhaps that you don’t use anything at all, if you call that a choice. A consumer does not rely on technology to that extent, partly because they don’t have that kind of a technology infrastructure where everything is depending on everything else. Still to this day, things are their individual little islands that largely operate quite independently of each other. See that as a strength in this case, or a sign of weakness in how poorly things work in concert even in this day and age. If you want a device from anybody, it’s just about your wallet and what you want, and nothing else.

So please, save us all the whining about how you are locked to any given vendor, because you’re not!



Robert Falck

Robert is a freelance tech writer from Sweden. You can follow his posts here on the British Tech Network, listen to him yap away on the British Tech iOS Show and read even more of his stuff on his site streakmachine.com or you can even follow him on twitter @streakmachine or app.net @streakmachine. (But you won’t find him on Facebook!)


Robert Falck


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