OEM Software

If you have an email account then chances are that you have received spam emails advertising OEM software at way below the price of regular software. You may be wondering how they can afford to offer software so much cheaper than you can buy it for elsewhere given that they tell you that what OEM means is that the only difference is it comes without the fancy packaging and manual.

Unfortunately such emails are lying to you and what you are actually paying for if you buy their OEM software is absolutely nothing at all. Whatever they are charging is way overpriced for nothing which you can of course get anywhere for no charge whatsoever.

When you buy computer software you are not buying the software itself (if you were you would most likely be paying millions of dollars instead of just a few hundred or less). In most instances what you are actually buying is a licence to use the software which belongs to someone else on your computer. The disk containing the software and the manual (if any) that comes with it are incidentals that make up a negligible portion of the purchase price (at least so far as you the buyer are concerned). The majority of what you are paying (all if you download off the internet without getting a disk) pays for the licence to use the software.

There are several different types of licences that the software owners offer to people who want to be able to use their software. The typical licence that you get when you buy software by itself either allows you to install and use the software on one computer or you may get a discount on a licence allowing you to use the same software on more than one computer.

Things are a little different when you buy a new computer that comes with a selection of software preinstalled. The company that builds the computers and preinstalls the software for you either provides you with disks containing copies of all of the software they installed for you or instructions on how you can create those disks yourself (if they didn't then you haven't got what you paid for with that software). What they don't provide you with is the fancy individual packaging and the installation instructions since the software is already installed for you and the packaging isn't needed when you have a whole system for them to put the disks in with.

As the Original Equipment Manufacturers (as the computer builders are called) don't need all of the fancy packaging and only need one set of install instructions, the software owners make the software licences available to them at a special price (since the packaging and manual do make up a big part of the price as far as the software owner is concerned). This special price allows the computer builders to buy the software that they are going to preinstall onto thousands of computers at a small fraction of what the software sells for individually but places one major restriction on what the computer builders can do with the software.

They are only allowed to sell the licences to the software that they have bulk purchased when that software is preinstalled onto the computer hardware that they are selling. They are not permitted to sell the software licences separately. In some instances in fact since the hardware that the software is to run on is known a special version of the software may have been created just for them that is customised specifically to work with that specific hardware and which may therefore not be able to be transferred to a different computer (which in most cases would be a breach of the software licence anyway).

As you have probably guessed by now the version of the software supplied to Original Equipment manufacturers is called OEM software.

So the difference between OEM software and shrink-wrapped software is not that the OEM software comes without the fancy packaging and installation guide. The difference is that OEM software comes preinstalled on the hardware that you buy at the same time. Unless the OEM software is supplied to you preinstalled on a new computer system (or at the very least on a new hard drive that you can install into an existing computer) then the seller has no right to sell you that software as the OEM licence only allows it to be sold when preinstalled on hardware. As such you do not obtain a valid licence to use the software when you buy OEM software that is not preinstalled onto hardware. Effectively what you have bought is a pirated copy of the software since it is being sold without a valid software licence. Since it is the licence to use the software that you are paying for when you buy software and OEM software that isn't preinstalled onto hardware doesn't have that licence the purchase of OEM software that isn't preinstalled onto hardware gives you nothing at all foer your money since all you are getting is stolen goods.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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