Microsoft sells full versions of Vista Ultimate Edition for $399. Nice pretty packaging and user manuals are included. But you can go to some stores, such as Newegg, and buy the OEM edition for $199.99. This edition is just a DVD, no packaging other than the DVD sleeve. They do specify that you must be a “system builder” in order to qualify. Two things about that – one, I highly doubt that any of the stores would care to check, and two, the definition in Microsoft’s documentation of what a system builder is leaves it pretty wide open.
“System builder” means an original equipment manufacturer, an assembler, refurbisher, or pre-installer of software on computer systems.
Hey, if I put the pieces together I am an assembler. Another requirement is that the installer must provide support, Microsoft will not. Ok, I will support my own system, I never call Microsoft anyway. That all seems to qualify me. The one downside would be the care you need to take in changing hardware. It is a gray area as to how many hardware changes you could make before it is considered a different system, and at that point your activation may be void.
I am not sure if Microsoft likes to see this type of thing, but they don’t seem to be working to shut it down either. I know I would not be happy spending another $200 for what amounts to a manual and case, so this is a very sweet deal.