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An independent hardware vendor (IHV) is a company that makes a certain type of niche hardware that has to be compatible with broader hardware systems. These companies work to provide accessories for the hardware market that help developers and others to fully outfit extensive hardware and networking systems.
An independent hardware vendor may make conventional equipment for desktop or laptop computers such as sound or graphics cards or other add-ons, or different kinds of hardware accessories for mobile networks or other types of technology. One way to think of them is as secondary suppliers creating hardware according to the specifications of dominant hardware providers such as Microsoft and Dell in the PC market, and Apple and Android in the mobile market. These independent vendors exist in a kind of loose network around those larger companies that make the comprehensive systems, such as dominant operating system or device makers.
Since compatibility is a major issue for IHVs, some companies rely on compatibility certifications that show their products are useful in a given hardware/software environment.