As some forum members will know, I have an ongoing interest in Microsoft licensing terms, and on several occasions in the past I've attempted to fight my way through the virtual fog that swirls around the whole subject. I try to talk to Microsoft whenever I can, but it's not easy to get a definitive statement on the subject - at least that's my experience.
Consider this, which is part of a written answer the company provided when I recently asked about OEM software:-
"OEM licensed software is only supposed to be sold with either a fully assembled PC or as pre-installed on a PC. We do not advise that users purchase OEM software outside of these scenarios."
How's that for a wishy-washy response? Is it OK to sell OEM products as standalones? What's all this "...is only supposed to be sold..." and "we do not advise..."? The software will certainly be activated if you try, so what's going on here - are those of us who buy the retail software versions mugs or something?
I don't normally indulge in MS-bashing, but it seems to me that the company is running a double-standard here. Either the OEM licence is for software that's preinstalled on a new computer or it's not, and if it is then Microsoft ought to take action to stop retailers selling standalone OEM copies of WindowsXP - they could just stop supplying such outlets. The company can't have it both ways, because it might lead people like me to think that perhaps they've decided to just go for the money, no matter what. Otherwise, why are they selling cases and cases of OEM versions of MS Office and WindowsXP to ordinary hardware retailers who openly advertise the software as standalone items?
The problem for you, the consumer, is that if you buy OEM software you can forget about any support from Microsoft. If you buy a new machine with OEM Windows XP on it you'll need to look to the manufacturer for help and support, and if you buy the software on its own you'll get no support from anyone - except us, here in the forum.