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What Does COTS Mean?

Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) is marketing lingo for turnkey software and hardware that can be purchased, leased or licensed by the general public.


COTS products can be used "out of the box" without modification. The term has its roots in the military.

The advantages of purchasing a COTS solution include the following:

  • Short timeline from acquisition to everyday use.
  • Maintenance contracts, if offered, are opt-in.
  • The manufacturer is responsible for updates to software and firmware.

Techopedia Explains COTS

The decision about whether to use a COTS product or build something custom should be based on the needs of the user and the cost-effectiveness of building a custom solution.

If a purchaser or third-party vendor customizes a COTS product, the manufacturer's warrantee becomes null and void, and it becomes the responsibility of the consumer to manage the software or hardware throughout the rest of its product lifecycle.

A COTS product that has been tailored to meet the needs of a specific group of people is referred to as a MOTS (modified-off-the-shelf) product.


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