The AT Distribution Juggernaut
What do you get when the “invisible hand” of the free market gets disrupted by monopolistic practices and unfair trade restrictions? The answer is: the blindness/AT industry today.
Most recently old friend but, more important for this story, the top Mobile Speak Pocket (MSP) dealer in the US, Earle Harrison has had his contract to sell MSP taken from him as a punishment for also selling HandiTech Braille displays. This happened because Humanware, the company with exclusive master distribution rights to MSP in North America decided they felt unhappy that, although Earle represented MSP very well and had hundreds of happy customers for the innovative software from Code Factory, that his decision to also sell HandiTech displays instead of those from Humanware could not be accepted and they killed his contract.
It seems as though selling AT products these days requires a one way loyalty from the dealer toward the supplier which is not reciprocated at all. Years ago, Microsoft lost a law suit when they told resellers that to carry popular MS titles like Word; they could not also carry products from WordPerfect. This system of exclusivity was referred to as a secondary boycott and deemed illegal by the courts and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Humanware, an upstanding company, surely knows that such linkage of products and a secondary boycott is not legal in the US but must have forgotten to include an exclusivity clause in Harrison’s contract so they had to resort to behavior of questionable legality in order to keep one of their top dealers from also selling a product from an organization they perceive as a competitor. While this doesn’t make much sense, it is what it is.
Who benefits by the weird economic theory that leads a distributor to act this way? The consumers? Surely not, Earle was one of the most popular MSP dealers among the peeps; the innovators? This can’t possibly be good for Code Factory; Who then?
I’ve been insanely busy since ATIA so the blog has gone a bit quiet lately. I’ll be back to “normal” soon and posts will return to their regular rate.