Australian Reseller News has started a regular OEM section. That should be straight- forward, you'd think -- just report on what's happening in the OEM sector. Now let me remind myself what OEM means. And let me ask 10 people in the channel what OEM means. Result: 23 different definitions.
Put in its simplest, and original form, OEM or original equipment manufacturer, meant anyone who created a component, sub-assembly or complete product that was meant to be used by another manufacturer or reseller who added value to the product in some way. That added value could be as great as building an entirely new product from all the component parts, or it could be as simple as putting your name badge on the otherwise unbranded product, then selling it as your own.
The common example given is Canon which produced the laser printer engine that was used in the earliest popular laser printers from companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Apple. By choosing different page makeup languages PostScript and PCL -- these two produced quite different products from a similar starting point.
If chip maker AMD was to release a new 586-class microprocessor and video controller combination at $4 each in OEM quantities, you wouldn't be surprised at it being put to widely varied uses. One manufacturer could use it as the basis of a low-cost, battery powered notebook PC for third world countries, while another could build it into a model train control box.
Thankfully, things aren't quite as varied as that in the computer industry, and many OEM bits and pieces are very standard indeed. After all, just how many types of generic PC power supplies are there? The same applies to cases, D-sockets, printer cables and so on. No wonder it's a cut-throat industry when those mainland Chinese factories are churning out the bits faster than importers can print new price lists.
One of the first areas we'll be looking at is monitors. They're an essential part of any desktop system, yet how often do assemblers choose the lowest priced, regardless of quality, reliability or even health and safety issues. In some ways the industry has done itself a disservice by aggregating too many components into a single bundle. If PC didn't automatically come with a (cheap) monitor, it would be easier to sell buyers up to a better quality monitor that would almost certainly repay the extra price in user satisfaction.
As always, we're eager to get feedback and story ideas from readers. How would you sell someone on the idea that they should actually pay for the monitor?