The way I understand it is that OEMs have special deals with companies like Microsoft in order to get just the software with none of the other crap (like fancy printed boxes for the CDs the software is on), and this makes it slightly cheaper. It's not piracy, though
A true OEM and a Gateway special are two differant things. On the hardware end it means: Less warentee time, no pretty piece of cardboard, and ***possibly*** crippled features.
If you buy an OEM CPU it just means it comes in a plastic baggie (hope it does) most likely, no hsf, but will perform just as well as a boxed CPU. Video cards may be crippled the Radeon was/is a good example of this since the first gen cards came with slightly slower RAM than the retail; 6 ns rather than 5.5 also clocked at 166/166 rather than 183/183. My thought is what's the big deal? That RAM and GPU will handle the overclock and I save ~$50.
As far as I know (so I may be wrong) OEM computer manufacturers get a special edition of the card for less money costing us less. That's the reason you get Gateway GF3s without the full features.
OEM software (again as far as I know) comes with a CD and a manual if you're lucky. I see a lot more companies doing just a CD deal and including the manual in a pdf on the CD.
X company being an OEM manufacturer just means that they make some of the parts themselves and sell them to you. OEM is Original Equipment Manufacturer, not to insult your intelligence if you knew.
A company being an OEM is not always mean a bad thing or a crap.
OEM, Original Equipment Manufacturer, as the name implied, is just a manufacturer that makes the original equipment for a given vendor. IBM use their personal computers from Acer America which effectively makes Acer an OEM for IBM. There are many steps involved with an OEM. Acer may make a computer closely resemble to IBM computers and will sell it cheaper since they have no marketing or research cost to them unlike IBM so it's cheaper. With that, it comes with a price. Depending on the OEM, they *may or may not* left out the features you find it appealing so it's entirely up to you to choose carefully. And also since there is no law barring them not to be different or to be different, their quality control seems to be worse than name-brand people, like IBM.
Sun Micro Systems also OEM their Sparc to others ( surprise! surprise!). When you ordered a Sparc from Sun, they may not make it by themself. It is pretty good chance that it may be from one of their OEM, one of them being Synnex, http://www.synnex.com . The same thing with Dell and Compaq. Dell use Acer, http://www.acer.com , and Compaq and NEC use Solectron, http://www.solectron.com/ .
Ashcrow, you could be an OEM, if you wanted to. First of all, you need a license from your state saying that you are a business, with a name. Then, you can send the license number to various wholesale outfits and they will send you a catalog, where in there are products at greatly reduced prices (most of the time, anyway). All you have to do is buy the parts, put them together, slap your company's name on it, and then you are an OEM manufacturer. That is how Gateway, Dell, etc. started out. That is how, essentially, companies like Apple started out.
I'm assuming there's a fundamental reason (aside from ignorance) that everybody doesn't just become a small-time OEM so they can build computers for themselves at low, low prices, right? Do the wholesalers force you to buy bulk?