Vista Launch: Windows Vista goes on sale in the UK

While traditional bricks and mortar retailers passed up the opportunity to launch Microsoft's Windows Vista with a midnight bang, online retailers seized a last-minute opportunity to steal a march on their high street rivals.

Major UK online and mail order hardware and software suppliers including, eBuyer, Misco and Microdirect all sent out a flurry of promotional emails to customers late on Monday night, promoting not only the fact that they would be taking actual sale orders for the new operating system, and in some cases for new PCs pre-installed with Vista, but also promoting deep discounts on so-called OEM versions of the software.

OEM software is the unboxed version of a software application or operating system that is traditionally included with a new PC or peripheral. Whilst it is common for OEM software to be sold by retailers, usually acquired from a PC maker with an overstock, many in the industry are surprised at how much OEM stock has made it into the hands of online retailers in time for Vista's launch day.

"Considering that several high street retailers were expressing concern that they could not get hold of enough retail stock for the first day of trading, we are surprised at how plentiful the OEM supplies are. The grey market has been awash with them since last week, and we've taken full advantage of the situation to buy in low-cost stock" said a representative of one online retailer who asked not to be named.

He added that pre-sales and midnight orders were brisk.

Some stores began selling Vista and Vista-based PCs from 6am this morning, with most opening at 9 and 10am as normal.