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Mystery over Vista's promised Ultimate Extras

No sign of add-ons as Microsoft deadline passes

Microsoft has been criticised for missing its self-imposed deadline to provide promised add-ons to Windows Vista Ultimate.

Vista Ultimate Extras, available only to customers running the top-end Vista edition, was one of the features cited by Microsoft to distinguish the £320 Vista Ultimate from its £185 cousin, Vista Home Premium. Microsoft's online marketing, for instance, touted Extras as "cutting-edge programs, innovative services, and unique publications" that would be regularly offered to Ultimate users.

But by June, Microsoft had not released any new Extras since it issued a beta of DreamScene, a video screensaver, in February. That infuriated some users; several days later, Microsoft tried to defuse the situation by promising to wrap up DreamScene and 20 unfinished language packs.

"We apologise for taking so long to provide a status update to customers," said Barry Goffe, the director of Vista Ultimate, in a posting to a Microsoft blog on July 2. "We intend to ship Windows DreamScene and the remaining 20 Language Packs by the end of the summer."

But summer has come and gone, and users now say there has been nothing new from Extras. "Even if the Windows Ultimate team has fled to the International Date Line, summer is officially over," said Windows enthusiast Long Zheng, who blogs at iStartedSomething. Zheng was one of those who turned up the heat on Microsoft earlier in the summer with several postings about the Extras' no-show. "Normally I wouldn't care what season it is in the northern hemisphere, but today it proves this team is incapable [of] delivering anything and should never be trusted again.

"The truth is, customers are getting near to nothing [from Extras]," Zheng said on Sunday.

Most users who left comments on Zheng's blog said they too felt bamboozled. "While I didn't only purchase Ultimate so that I could get the extras, it certainly was a deciding factor," said a user identified as T-Man. "The thought of getting something more was certainly appealing. Especially given the price premium for Ultimate, this is certainly a very hard pill to swallow."

A minority, however, was more forgiving about the failure to make the deadline. "Ultimate Extras are just that... extras," said Brandon Live, a Microsoft employee who works in its search group, in a comment to Zheng's blog. "While I am disappointed with how they've been handled, I never considered them to be the reason anyone would buy Ultimate."

"I'm pleased with Vista Ultimate as it is. Just relax and they will deliver on their own time, not yours," added someone identified as Lipo Network.

A few users had fun at Microsoft's expense on the company's own support newsgroups. "Did they mention what year the end of summer release was going to be in?" asked a user identified as 'theclyde' on the Vista General Discussion newsgroup.

Another user on the newsgroup, Andrew McLaren, said he was Australian, and wondered if Vista team had its hemispheres confused. "Hmmm, maybe the Ultimate Extras guys were thinking of the *Southern* summer? Maybe we'll see those updates by February 08?"

Microsoft's Goffe did give Extras an escape clause in his July 2 post, the most recent blog update. "We will not ship the last two Extras showcased in January (Windows DreamScene and the remaining 20 Language Packs) until they meet the high quality bar required by our enthusiastic customers," he said. "We believe that we can achieve that bar by the end of this summer."

"That's a catch-all phrase," noted a user named Robert Firth on the Vista newsgroup. "Doesn't matter if it is the end of summer, they said if it isn't ready it isn't ready. So they could still be telling the truth."

That's not good enough, said some. "The only 'ultimate' thing about my copy of Vista is that it is the last copy I will buy of a Microsoft OS," said Bayleaf in a comment on Zheng's blog.


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