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What is a Software Bundle?

By M.R. Anglin
Updated May 16, 2024
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A software bundle is a collection of different software that is distributed together or that comes with the purchase of hardware. For example, if a person buys a new computer, the operating system and any programs that come with it are considered a software bundle. By distributing the software together, the user gets all the software they need for a lower price than buying it separately, and the manufacturer gets their software distributed. There are several different types of software bundles available, and each can be geared toward a particular niche and a particular market. It just depends on what type of software or hardware you are looking for.

Many times the software included in a software bundle are related in some way so it makes sense to distribute them together. For instance, Microsoft® Office is a popular software bundle. This bundle features programs that all have something to do with creating and presenting information—whether it is spreadsheets, reports, graphs, or presentations. By having all the programs together, a user can present their information in different ways and may even be able to import information from one program into other related programs. One example of this is importing a table from a spreadsheet into a report typed in a word processor.

It is not just computers that can come with software bundles, however. Some video game systems come with a game bundle, though many times this is done as a device to get a person to buy the platform. A video game manufacturer may also use new technology to bundle old games together on one disk. Bundles are even available for the retail market. These software bundles include items like a retail computer, cash drawer, and the software to make the hardware run.

The licensing for a software bundle may also be slightly different from software bought individually. If the bundle came with hardware, the license may not allow for the software to be shared with other hardware. Similarly, it may not be permissible for a user to unbundle software, meaning separating software to use on different machines. For example, if a bundle came with a word processor and a spreadsheet, the license may not allow for a user to install the word processor on one computer and the spreadsheet on another. Different versions of software have different licenses, however, so it is wise to read the license before installing the software.

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Discussion Comments

By Charred — On Jul 05, 2011

@SkyWhisperer - I second that motion. For my purposes as a Linux PHP developer, I’ve found the LAMP software bundle to be a real timesaver. LAMP stands for Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP. These are the four components you need to run PHP on your Linux machine, and the bundle comes with a single installer that installs everything at once.

For these applications that’s a big plus because the installer must not only install the applications, but configure them to work correctly with each other. It used to be that you had to do these configurations by hand and it was a real hassle.

Also LAMP gives you a central command console so that you can control everything all at once, so I don’t have to muck around in files to tweak the application.

By SkyWhisperer — On Jul 04, 2011

@David09 - I don’t know where I’d be without the bundled approach to software. I’m not just talking about productivity software like Microsoft Office – it applies to every application.

For example, I bought the Macromedia Director suite years ago and I had everything in one package: software for animation, photo editing, 3D modeling and sound editing. It was a real time saver.

I realize that the pros know how to cobble together different packages and utilities here and there to create the suite of software applications they need. However, having it all there together works best for me because I know that the separate applications will work with each other seamlessly.

By David09 — On Jul 04, 2011

@allenJo - That’s good advice, thanks for the tip. I’ve noticed those websites myself and have always had my suspicions. Frankly, the only way that I’ve ever been able to afford pricey Microsoft software bundle packages like Office is to buy a new computer with the software installed and tacked on to the purchase price.

Since I buy a new computer every three to four years, this has actually worked out to be a cost effective solution for me. It’s a shame when most software bundles cost more than the basic hardware, but that’s the situation we find ourselves in, and the OEM packages offer us a way to get the productivity software suites that we really need at a price we can afford.

By allenJo — On Jul 03, 2011

Bundled software that comes with new computers is usually labeled OEM (original equipment manufacturer) license and is not meant to be resold.

However, I do find a few unscrupulous operators on the Internet who claim to sell dirt cheap software download packages, even claiming that it is OEM software.

I guarantee you that there is nothing legitimate about these operations, especially when you look at the price, which is typically discounted 80% to 90% off retail. Some of the companies get around legalities by claiming they’re offering academic discounts, but when you fill out their online forms, you’ll find that they’re not really requiring proof (like documentation) that you are a student. I’d stay away from these businesses.

If you really want to buy bundled software and can’t afford the sticker price, check Ebay for used software. They’ll offer the complete bundle in a box, with the original license agreement.

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