By Scott Dunn
My story in the Apr. 26 newsletter reported on the sale of “OEM versions” of Windows, which can be purchased much more cheaply than even heavily discounted “educational” versions.
Readers debated in the May 3 and May 10 issues the ethics of buying OEM versions of Windows, but there’s clear evidence that Microsoft officially supports the sale of OEM licenses under certain conditions to any individual who’s building a PC.
MS site encourages OEM sales to individuals
Reader Richard Edwards sent us some Web pages from Microsoft’s Partner Program site, which is accessible only to registered users. These Microsoft pages support the view that any “system builder” can legally purchase and install OEM software — even a home hobbyist who just works with a single machine. Microsoft’s OEM license agreement defines a system builder as “an original equipment manufacturer, an assembler, refurbisher, or pre-installer of software on computer systems.” [Emphasis added.]
Naturally, the other limitations of the OEM version, which I mentioned in the Apr. 26 issue, still apply, including the lack of technical support from Microsoft and the fact that the license can’t be transferred to another machine under the license terms.
A February blog posting on the Partner Program site asks, "Can a system builder sell an OEM copy of Windows Vista without attaching it to a piece of hardware?" The answer that follows is:
- "YES! YES! YES you can!!!!!!! As long as you do not open the package AND the end user is assembling their own PC (at that point the user is considered a system builder). [Emphasis added.] As of August 2005, the licensing changed on all of the OEM licensing packs — 1, 3, and 30."
- "OEM system builder software packs are intended for PC and server manufacturers or assemblers ONLY. They are not intended for distribution to end users. Unless the end user is actually assembling his/her own PC, in which case, that end user is considered a system builder as well." [Emphasis added.]
Unfortunately, Microsoft has chosen to hide some of its clearest statements about the sale of OEM software to end users on a Web site that is only available to those who join the Microsoft Partner Program (see Figure 1).