Monday, August 02, 2004


Tethering is the creation of a dependence (tight coupling, binding) by a supplier, in a situation where a consumer may have a reasonable expectation of independence (loose coupling, zero coupling).

Example 1. RealNetworks has recently launched a service to download music onto Apple iPods. Apple regards this as an invasion of its tethering. The blogs I read are generally supportive of RealNetworks.
Example 2. It is alleged that some brands of printer automatically reduce print quality when they detect third-party ink cartridges.

Example 3. Off-shore software developers may put in unauthorized coupling between software modules/components, in order to increase subsequent maintenance revenues.

Tethering represents a clash between the supplier's view of the world and the consumers' view. (We call this Asymmetric Demand.) Sometimes it stems from a deliberate plan to exploit a commercial position or from bloodymindedness. But sometimes the supplier feels that the position is morally defensible and in the best interests of consumers (if they but knew it.) Surely iTunes provides all the flexibility and functionality anyone could want??

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