What does OEM mean?
Original Equipment Manufacturer.
OEM Hardware is the term given to a manufacturer that buys hardware from another source, and implements it into their own design.
OEM Software means that the software is sold only with a certain piece of hardware and/or the software manufacturer provides no technical support.
An example of OEM hardware would be:
A hardware company that manufactures one type of circuit board (such as a motherboard) buys hardware (for example, an audio module) from another.
The purchaser (motherboard manufacturer) then integrates the hardware (audio module) into their own product and puts it out to market.
The purchasing manufacturer will usually re-brand the hardware (the audio module in our example) under their own name. They also provide the technical support and warranty.
An example of OEM software would be:
You purchase a printer and you get a third-party, photo editing program along with it. The software has been supplied to the printer manufacturer under an OEM licence, and can only be sold or given away with that particular printer.
You will also find that OEM software usually doesn't come with a manual or a box. If it's software you are experienced in using then having no manual won't be a problem, although most OEM software does still come with the built-in help system.
The price difference between OEM software and full retail software can be huge, so if having no box, no manual and no technical support is not a problem then it can be a bargain. In most countries, the majority of OEM software, must be purchased with accompanying hardware.
note: some OEM software is a cutdown version of its retail counterpart, always make sure the software has all of the features you need.