Vendor Lock-In

What Does Vendor Lock-In Mean?

Vendor lock-in is the restricted or proprietary use of a technology, solution or service developed by a vendor or vendor partner. This technique can be disabling and demoralizing because customers are effectively prevented from switching to alternate vendors.


Vendor lock in is also known as proprietary lock-in or customer lock-in.

Techopedia Explains Vendor Lock-In

Vendor lock-in is a service delivery technique that ensures customer dependence on the vendor services. This is achieved by developing IT solutions that are platform-dependent with proprietary software/application/hardware/equipment and that run exclusively or collaboratively with limited and third-party vendor partners. Moreover, these types of services dent high switching costs between competing vendors, making customers reluctant or even incapable of transitioning to different vendors. It’s the classic case of a tradeoff between good technology and good business. Unfortunately for customers (and techies), bad technology and closed standards sometimes make for a more profitable product.

An example is a SIM lock (network lock), where a SIM card is proprietary to a specified phone manufacturer. Microsoft is often criticized for vendor lock-in in its production of non open-source application programming interfaces (API) and structures for Windows operating system (OS) apps requiring heavy OS switching costs. Vendor lock-in is prominently visible in cloud computing solutions, where the switching of data/services swapping and integration, though not always costly, is highly complex.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.