I had a good long chat to Eric Gales of Microsoft today.

Eric is responsible for OEM licensing, and he was just the man to clear up the recent confusion created by news of changes in the OEM terms and conditions. You'll recall that we've been discussing this in the forum - Microsoft changed the OEM agreement on 29th August this year.

The new terms prohibit the sale of an OEM copy of Windows XP or Office 2003 direct to an end user - you must be a system builder, and can no longer buy the software with a 'non-peripheral' item of hardware, such as a hard drive, or some RAM.The problem as we understood it was that this effectively slammed the door in the faces of the thousands of small, home-based computer builders, who might make a few PCs for friends, or even for customers.

These people have in the past been able to buy OEM software from online suppliers, together with the bits and pieces of hardware they need. Eric assures me that Microsoft has actually no intention of stopping them from obtaining the software - provided the supplier is happy to sell it, and the purchaser understands he/she must install it on a new computer (not as an upgrade on an existing machine).

Microsoft knows that in the past OEM software was being sold in defiance of their 'non-peripheral' hardware requirement, and the new terms were actually designed to make things clearer.

That they haven't done so is amply illustrated by the number of people who are confused. I hope that confusion can now cease - you may go ahead an buy OEM Windows from anyone who will sell it to you, as long as you understand that you MUST install it on a new machine. Microsoft trusts you to observe that condition, and as loong as you do all will be well.

Eric Gales provided me with an excellent PowerPoint presentation that lays out the situation very clearly. He's happy for me to distribute it to anyone who would like a copy, and I think we might get Microsoft to agree to us including it on a future coverdisk.

As I write I'm waiting for the Microsoft Press people to OK this (they're a tad cautious about Microsoft files going on coverdisks), and once (if) they do I'll let you know. In the meantime we might discuss this further in Speakers Corner if anyone needs more clarification - I'll start a thread anyway.