Microsoft delivers Vista Ultimate add-on, delays others

It plans to produce more bonus software, says SP1 changes don't mean it's quitting

Just days after users and bloggers raised Cain about Microsoft missing a deadline to deliver add-ons that it promised Windows Vista users, the company announced Tuesday that it is shipping one program but delaying 19 language packs for another month.

Microsoft also said that while Vista Service Pack 1's on-screen information about the add-ons has been dramatically scaled back from what appeared in the original operating system, it has no intention of dropping the extras.

Shipping Tuesday, said Barry Goffe, the director of Vista Ultimate, is DreamScene, the long-in-beta video screensaver that first appeared in February. The other downloads he had said would be shipped by mid year -- the remaining language packs used to turn Ultimate into a localized operating system -- have been delayed until next month, however.

"While we are excited about shipping DreamScene, the remaining 19 language packs are, unfortunately, not yet ready for release," said Goffe in a post to the Microsoft company blog that features news of Ultimate's add-ons, dubbed "Extras" by the company.

"Recently, we realized that Ultimate customers who tried to install the language packs that shipped earlier this year were experiencing an unacceptably high number of failures during installation," Goffe said. "We continue to make delivering the highest-quality, most-secure Extras our top priority, and we will not ship any Extra until it is absolutely ready."

The new deadline for the language packs, he added, is "by the end of October."

Microsoft has been taken to task by Vista Ultimate users since June, when several prominent Windows bloggers noted that it had been six months since the operating system's launch and the company hadn't shipped any finalized Extras in that time. Within days, Goffe was blogging, saying that DreamScene and the unshipped language packs would release by the end of summer.

Extras, which are bonus downloads available only to customers running the top-end Vista edition, were one of the benefits cited by Microsoft to distinguish the US$399 version of the operating system from its $239 cousin, 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.

According to Goffe, Extras are still coming, even though some testers of Vista SP1 have noticed a dramatic difference between what the service pack shows in a "What are Windows Ultimate Extras?" dialog box. Long Zheng, for example, who writes the Windows enthusiast blog iStartedSomething, posted screenshots of the original dialog box and the one from SP1 on Sunday.

"On a related note, Windows Vista Service Pack 1 even tries to hide the Ultimate Extras shame by removing much of the information in the Control Panel applet," Zheng wrote then.

Not true, said Goffe. "Our intent in making this change was simply to broaden the definition in anticipation of a broader range of Ultimate Extras being available in the future," he said on the blog. While he also said that Microsoft would ship additional add-ons, he didn't explicitly promise that Extras would continue.

In a reply to questions, however, a company spokesman did just that. "We are fully committed to delivering additional Windows Ultimate Extras in the future," the spokesman said in an e-mail. "In addition to this latest announcement, we plan to ship a collection of additional Windows Ultimate Extras over the next few years."

DreamScene can be downloaded only by Vista Ultimate users, who can retrieve the screensaver from the Windows Update screen.

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