Windows Ultimate Extras is a sham – where’s the responsibility?

Ultimate ExtrasI was going to write about this on June 30, because that would have marked the half-year anniversary of Windows Vista, but since Josh Phillips has already started the conversation, I thought I should keep it rolling. It’s funny to read about this now, because I had already lost hope in February. In a post titled “Is Windows Vista Ultimate Extras a sham?“, I voiced some of my concerns about Ultimate Extras and why I thought it was going to disappoint. A lot of people didn’t agree with me, suggesting we needed more time to allow ‘progress’ to happen. Well, I think now is a better time than any.

A lot of people no longer remember the elusive dream that was Windows Ultimate Extras, so let’s refresh our memories. Straight from the horse’s mouth, this was the promise.

Windows Ultimate Extras

To Microsoft’s credit, you can’t deny the attraction. It’s filled with tantalizing buzzwords that would reach deep into the hearts of every geek and Microsoft-fanboy.

Ultimate ExtrasAlmost 180 days ago, we started with language packs, BitLocker “enhancements”, a poker game and desktop videos. A hundred and eighty days later, the sea level has probably changed more. If you look at it from the “glass is half full” perspective, 4 extras in 6 months, not excellent but we’re still okay. If you look at it from the “glass is half empty” perspective, we started with 4, and 6 months later, we’re still at 4, we’ve got a problem. It’s safe to say, anyone who paid for Ultimate with their own blood and sweat is going to go with the latter perspective. And that makes a lot of angry customers.

Just to highlight, the JoeJoe community in particular has started questioning themselves and Microsoft over the value of Ultimate Extras. One member has even gone out of way to ring Microsoft and demand to speak to someone responsible for Ultimate about the lack of value they receive. And unsurprisingly, Microsoft has failed to disclose any information which answers his concern.

Games for WindowsAnd that’s also the problem. This isn’t about program features, or even what was promoted, it’s about the lack of transparency. For the sake of arguing, Microsoft could deliver nothing for another 6 months, but if they publically acknowledge their lack of due progress, sets a schedule to release their entire “Games for Windows” games library available for users to each pick a few titles for free, I think most customers would accept the value in that. Of course, we live in reality and by the current course of things, you can get more information out of the NSA than you can from the Ultimate team.

I’ve heard through a reliable source that Microsoft is having problems with the Dreamscene codebase. Simply put, it would not work reliably or work at all on right-to-left language based systems. I believe this is an architectural problem that can’t be easily solved by a patch. If this is true, in effect, Dreamscene will be in perpetual beta – will never come out of beta. Why? Because it would be discriminating to release and support a final version of Dreamscene that only works on English systems, where it is only 1 out of the dozen languages Vista are sold with. Whilst in beta, it is excused from such standards. If you thought this was bad, that’s not all.

Ultimate Extras teamAnother bombshell came when another reliable source suggested there is not even an Ultimate team in existence anymore. Some suggest there were never a team to begin with, more of a collection of people all over Microsoft who worked with marketing on Ultimate Extras. This would explain the lack of direction, insight and progress on Ultimate Extras if no one’s responsible for it anymore. And also why I’m not getting any nasty emails. ;)

It puzzles me, but not just me, why there is such secrecy about a product that people have paid for? Let’s assume they announce their ideas 4 weeks ahead of release, and some third party duplicates the functionality, why does that matter to them? The money is already in their bank. People don’t buy Ultimate for the extras that are coming out, they buy Ultimate in anticipation of the extras that are coming out.

With general products, people pay for what’s printed on and inside the box, if any disagreement arises over what should have or shouldn’t have, it’s simple to resolve. But with Ultimate Extras, people are betting on a promise – that Microsoft will deliver useful enhancements to them regularly. And so far, stepping into the maturity of this OS release, that is an empty promise. A promise now not far from a lie.

Update: I hope Microsoft comes out to prove me wrong. Humiliate me. For everyone else’s sake.

Update 2: It looks like Microsoft Australia even offered someone a downgrade from Ultimate to Home Premium over at the Neowin forums because he thought he wasn’t getting enough value.

88 insightful thoughts

  1. Thank god I got Vista Ultimate through the Beta program. I can’t even begin to imagine how I would be feeling had I used my hard earned money to pay it.

    But alas, I’m still hoping and praying they keep their word.

  2. All the extras for Ultimate should have been free for users of Home Premium / Business. Ultimate should never have existed… Home Premium and Business should have been merged into one product… The prices should NEVER have been so high.

  3. So true! BTW I can tell you that the Dreamscene beta works great on my German version but I had to download the Language Pack for English (maybe because the beta is in English). So I do not understand why it’s still in beta and if they didn’t have an Ultimate Extras team, they should just hire some designers to render nice videos. I can give them my email address ;)

  4. Hey, I don’t have Ultimate and think it’s disappointing they haven’t kept up with it by releasing more things….but every Games for Windows game for free? You’re kidding right? That’s hundreds of dollars worth. That doesn’t even make sense. I could maybe understand, say like one free game…but still.

  5. Maybe Vista Ultimate users will warrant a free upgrade to Windows 7!
    Perhaps the developers were waiting until Apple spilt its beans with Leopard so that they could ‘start their photocopiers’. One could wish…

  6. I smell a class action lawsuite us people who paid good money for ultimate based on the promises of microsoft :)

  7. “was going to write about this on June 30, because that would have marked the half-year anniversary of Windows Vista…”

    Not to get too picky or anything, but wouldn’t June 30 be the five-month anniversary of Windows Vista? The half-year mark will come on July 30, by my calculation.

  8. How come that I don’t have Hold’em Poker in my Extras list? All I see is a BitLocker, DreamScene content pack and language packs. I want poker!

  9. @I work there: Nope. If what you’re suggesting is true, and there are things in the works, they are still being hush-hush about it. But since your IP is from the east-coast, that’s highly implausible.

  10. Yeah, I’m a bit disappointed in the lack of ultimate extras – but I got Ultimate mainly for Bitlocker. Though, it is a bit pricey just for one feature :/

  11. @Ed Bott: i think he’s counting from RTM, in which case it should probably read somewhere around 7 months, right? (i counted from December)Long’s most likely counting from January, in which case it would be 6/half a year.

    maybe the other extras are late, like the Wireless Gaming Receiver was supposed to be launched December 26th 2006 but came out only a few months ago. Same thing with the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000, which all of a sudden is to be released in September 2007. i swear it was supposed to come out when Vista was in ‘broad availability’.

  12. @ikyouCrow: Yeah, my mistake, it’s actually suppose to be 5-months. But if you count from early January when they were announced at CES, you can let me off the hook and that counts at 6 months :P

  13. The screen grab you reprinted says it all: you will get “cutting edge” software from Microsoft. Don’t complain! Microsoft delivered on its promise.

    (Explanation: Since MS can’t deliver cutting edge software, it didn’t.)

  14. from on high: if you’re not working on Windows 7, then you’re not working on the right thing. there will not be any more extras. there will not be an independent update of IE or WMP or MCE prior to Windows 7. agility? delighting customers? ha!

  15. MS took 5 yr to update SQL Server, Windows Server, and Windows Client. At the beginning of this period they changed their license scheme based on the promises of many, frequent updates. Funny how those didn’t materialize. Unfulfilled MS promises aren’t new. It’s been going on since ~2000.

  16. I get more bored of Ultimate Extras every time i run windows update and there’s nothing there.
    I even have the RSS of the ultimate extra blog on my Live.com, and it never changes..
    i’ve been told “So you liked the static Ultimate wallpapers huh?” for weeks!

  17. I wonder if we will see the UE team comment on their blog about all of this…

    If they dont, then they have probably run away :)!

  18. Well, I don’t think everyone who bought Vista Ultimate intended to buy Ultimate Extras. It might be cool to most people, but not necessarily something that all Ultimate users were anticipating, were they?

    Even then, Microsoft should have kept it’s promise, and should have delivered Ultimate Extras on the day of Vista’s launch. Microsoft still not having Ultimate Extras is quite disappointing and isn’t making their reputation any better. This will bring back some people in thinking ‘Microsoft makes promises, but doesn’t always keep them’. Sad.

  19. I agree to everything said, but maybe, only maybe (shoot me I am an optimist) there will be SP1 and it will give great new possibilities to Vista and UltimateTeam will use those new possibilities to give us something astonishing…
    But that’s only a theory…

  20. I just ordered a computer (custom builder) and paid extra for Ultimate. I took Microsofts Promise that they were going to have “extras” and it was implied that the “extra program” would be an ongoing event.

    I have always “wanted to” believe Microsoft’s story and promises. I tried to get information on the extras but could find nothing on their web site. Now you claim they disbanded the “Ultimate Team,” this all has the smell (unpleasant smell) of fraud. I sincerly hope that your reporting the story and this discussion channel will prompt a response from Microsoft Management and a response that is not some “sugar coated pap” that is supposed to make Ultimate users drift off in a fog and eventually forget the whole thing.

    Since I am a stockholder in Microsoft I think that I will attend the next meeting and register a protest and/or join a class action suit.

  21. hey hey Long….glad you noticed that i tried to pick up where you left off….i first read your artical back in Feb or so when it was first posted and it quickly became apparent you were on to sumthin….

    months later i read it again and you were really on to something at the time and i decided to bring it up again over at joejoe.org…many people there by reading the responses seem to think the same way…when i spoke with the girl @ microsoft i told her i had no issues paying for the OS and i was very happy (somewhat) and that i took place in the beta and other betas for Microsft and i at least wanted to know if there were any plans? for anything coming….and she still couldnt answer me….lol

    ill try to keep you posted if you like on what info i recieve if any!
    if again i do not recieve any info…..a petition will be started and brought to the attention of MS.

    peas
    cityboy

  22. There seems to be a history of disappointment with the Ultimate Extras team, when they announced people had been selected onto the beta back in January they proceeded to go quiet for a month before telling people that they wouldn’t be beta testing at all.

    I have to totally agree, Ultimate Extra’s to date has been underwhelming, of all the stuff released only the game and the BitLocker stuff has been useful. Dreamscene hates my graphics card and dual monitor set up.

    Why not get the live team to come up with some stuff, there is a team that seem to be able to deliver things.

    What really irks me is that the Ultimate Team have gone quiet since March. Not a single post on their blog after a flurry of 5 or 6. Some communication from MS wouldn’t go amiss.

  23. Yeah, exactly. I really don’t think anyone would really mind waiting a while for some exciting Extras, anything worthwhile is going to take some time to get ready. But being told absolutely nothing by this stage is getting insulting. Your Games for Windows idea is a good one, and was the kind of thing I expected from Ultimate.

  24. One nice idea would be for them to do more with photo software for Ultimate users now that they have killed off Digital Image Suite…roll some of the higher end features out as Extras.

  25. I want to believe that they are working on stuff but behind closed doors.

    I think Microsoft learnt their lesson with Vista and are now keeping exciting features (that have a 50% success rate) close to their chest.

  26. I shared my thoughts on Vista Ultimate SKU and Ultimate Extras back in March-
    The Windows Ultimate Extras Drought:
    http://adacosta.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!E8E5CC039D51E3DB!15774.entry

    I updated my thoughts yesterday following Josh’s post and I am still disappointed:
    http://adacosta.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!E8E5CC039D51E3DB!16032.entry

    My suggestions, scrap the Ultimate SKU altogether and sell off some of the services of Ultimate extras as optional add-ons (ala-Plus!) for users of the other SKU’s. But that would be taking it a bit too far I would assume. The only thing its holding onto is the best of both worlds marketing where you can have a laptop you use at home for Media Center/XBOX and in your Enterprise work environment. I don’t even use Bitlocker or any of Language packs.

    Alex, Click Start > All Programs > Windows Update. Under the left hand pane, click the “Check for updates” link. A list of updates will then appear. These updates can include a combination of Windows Update’s along with Ultimate Extras.

    See my blog entry for more details:
    http://adacosta.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!E8E5CC039D51E3DB!15724.entry

  27. Haha, when I opened this webpage my internet explorer’s addressbar turned yellow and it tells me this is a Suspicious website that might be a phishing website :)

    bwahaha. If you want a screenshot I’ll send it to you. I wonder what’s causing it. Microsoft doesn’t like your Ultimate Extra comments?

  28. I sent them (their blog or whatever) an email just yesterday on this issue! I hope they start developing again as I could have done alright with Home Premium.

  29. One thing not mentioned here about the Vista Ultimate is its ability to run Unix programs. Yea that is a business feature, but it is one reserved for the Ultimate version. Another “feature” is the liscensing allowing the Ultimate to run on virtual machines.

    It is already obvious that Microsoft has tried to hit price points and not feature sets. I had a friend that was one of the victims of the immediate upgrade programs. When they “upgraded” the files they were using before the upgrade showed up in the restore feature of the new system. Hoging the HD the whole time but preventing access.

    I can’t say I regret buying the Ultimate. I have the whole hog so to speak and can access it all. As for the junk MS has promised, who cares. MS has sold bug fixes in the past and charged for it because they added some screensavers or other pointless junk bundled with it. At least now the fixes are essentially free. The extras are just one more item of many that MS has abandoned. With sales of Vista being slow, I doubt that we will see anything of the extras, until sales picks up. That is what they had intended to pay for it with. Right now, not enough sales of Ultimate to continue to support the “team” for now.

  30. I bought Vista Ultimate and am not happy as well. I have a real serious question I need answers to. I changed the permissions on disk1 and locked out the drive. I need to get it back without doing folder by folder, as I changed it the first time by Computer Management in a few short steps. Please excuse me for interrupting this forum subject.

    Thanks from Canada.

  31. Poker,…………….is there another forum “Anyone” knows of and I’ll be glad to post my important question there.

    Thank-you

  32. fishlos,
    I’m not @ all trying to be rude; however, if someone spoke up, I would more than likely be in a different forum right now, asking my question there.

    Thank-you

  33. Is this the “Ultimate Extras” forum, or the “Cry Babies” forum, because who ever ownes this piece of web is wacked on crack !!

  34. Couldn’t agree with this article more, the Ultimate Extras are severely lacking! The Ultimate Edition of Windows Vista is proving to be anything but Ultimate.

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  36. Not acceptable. Language packs (which shouldn’t be tied to Ultimate). Poker and DreamScene are not worth the extra effort of Ultimate. I know you want to hold your cards close to your vest, but this apology doesn’t cut it.

    For those of us who continue to stay in MS’s corner, Vista in general (and Ultimate in association) is making it hard to argue for MS’s position. Throw us a bone and over-deliver for once.

    Shawn Wildermuth (C# MVP)

  37. Embarrassed. Pathetic job, MS, pathetic.

    I don’t want another f*cking language pack. I already have 15 that I have yet to download! I ONLY NEED ENGLISH. WTF is wrong with Dreamscene? Just download Dreamscapes or whatever.

    ~Ibrahim~

  38. 2 Alex @ fishlos:

    To download Hold`em Poker you should set ALL regional settings to USA (especially “Language for non-unicode programms”). Restart Vista and check updates manually. Have fun.

    P.S.: I have Vista Ultimate x86 OEM

    From Russia with love =)

  39. I paid some serious money for a wee game, some system utilities (which should have been there in the first place, and\or are still buggy beta) and thats it? I switched to linux (no i’m not an ms basher, i think both products are good) I just don’t like to work with a product from a company that scamed me.

  40. Technically Microsoft already delivered on the “extras”. People paid for Ultimate mainly for bitlocker-which was advertised. Even if you seriously did buy on the notion of getting “extras”, you already got them. You got poker and a moving wallpaper on top of Bit Locker, extra faxing capabilities, and added security. They never said how much you would get. I mean what are they supposed to do, Ultimate was only like $80 more than Premium. Its like you expect free retail games like Crysis to be downloaded for free on your next update!

    I don’t think Ultimate is worth the price. To be honest Premium isn’t even worth the price considering there was nothing wrong with XP and in some cases is superior to Vista. Seriously though, for $80 over Premium I don’t know how you expect to get all these super duper,exclusive,VIP, Ultimate, members only benefits. You got a few extras-now go play poker and relax!

  41. @smellywinsock

    I don’t think you are right, Microsoft did promise much more than it delivered:
    http://www.istartedsomething.com/20070923/ultimate-extras-con/

    While Texas Hold’em and Dreamscene may theoretically be considered “Cutting Edge ProgramS” …

    … there was not a single “innovative service” offered through Windows Ultimate Extras so far. No free online storage or premium Windows Live Mail etc.
    … no free “unique publications” either. No free ebook for Ultimate owners.

    Microsoft did NOT deliver all promised extras …

  42. And that is why Microsoft stated that there would be more to come over the “years” for Ultimate owners. Still, I wouldn’t expect too much when they are considering language packs as updates or “extras”. While most of the things you asked for above can be had for free using other services, ie. free online storage, free online games, etc.

    While I know many people didn’t buy a retail copy, but home use consumers that did were offered quite a few extras from the gate. The “gifts” included a free printer, free thumb drive, free wi-fi adapter, etc. Only consumers who purchased Ultimate were entitled to these exclusive gifts. That alone would cover the difference in cost for consumers that took advantage of it.

    I’m not saying Microsoft doesn’t need to offer more in the Ultimate Extras section, I just don’t see the need to get upset about things that can be had for free elsewhere,about missing newsletters that would only glorify the product even further or offer news updates that could be found on any number of other sites/blogs.

    The main selling point of Ultimate were the integration of business features like BitLocker, added faxing capabilities, enhanced security, etc. This is why I just cant fathom that the majority of people purchased Ultimate on the notion of a free newsletter, or exclusive screensaver. Even if they did, they were going completely on speculation, or preconceived notions of what to expect as Ultimate Extras.

    My point is that I believe Ultimate owners already got a few extra programs and features that others did not. There is also more to come, whether that be another language update or a truly innovative program, who knows? In either case its just more icing on the proverbial cake that already has a few extra layers,more sprinkles, and better taste than the Premium cupcake.

  43. @ smellywinsock

    Even though you make valid points. You’re forgetting that the way MS advertised Vista Ultimate was that these “extras” would make the whole experience of purchasing the Ultimate version worthwhile.

    You’re overlooking the fact that what they delivered, about making Ultimate different from the other versions of Vista, is short of what they promised.

    So what Vista Ultimate customers got a few extras? That’s not the point. The point is that they fabricated their product’s features to something it’s NOT. So they lied about it. Only AFTER they started to receive angry e-mails and phone calls did they say “sorry” and mention “over the next couple years”.

    I’m sure you’d feel a little different about it if you purchased Vista Ultimate expecting everything a corporation advertised.

  44. The way I see it when I purchased Vista Ultimate I got the ultimate shaft… come christmas I plan to purchase a new mac. I’ve spent my last dime on an MS product.

  45. I paid extra for their ultimate empty promise.

    Why there are so many troublesome versions anyway.

    Keep it simple HOME -> PRO -> SERVER 3 versions are good enough.

    AND everyone gets extra toys when it comes to updates. Because everyone of us has paid money for it!

  46. I like Vista in general. But this is blatant false advertising from MS. Count me in for the petition/class action suit!

    Over the next couple years???!! Are you kidding me?? I’ll buy a new computer by then! And I already bought the retail version of this OS like 10 months ago!

    @smellywinsock: I understand you’re point of view, but you’re missing the point. Please refer back to the screen capture at the top of this post. There is no way anyone at microsoft could possibly defend this as legitimate advertising. And this advertising is the reason I upgraded to Vista at all! If I wanted Vista home, I would have just stuck with XP. So I would have saved a lot more than 80 bucks. More than that, if MS would have said this is all there is to Ultimate, I never would have paid for this version. My Mac friends are laughing at me for being duped once again. I really want to defend microsoft, but they’re making it virtually impossible. I have no idea what they’re doing anymore, or what their planning for the future of microsoft, and my confidence in MS is severely diminishing. I’m going to read through the Apple site for the first time in my life just to see what my options are. If MS delivered what they promised, that wouldn’t be necessary.

    I expected tools to really customize and tweak vista. So much for that.

  47. It is now 2009 and Windows 7 RC is being released tomorrow to the public.

    I have currently counted only a few extras: Some extra sounds, 2 new games (only small windows games), Dreamscene (which anyone can now get on any edition) and the language packs.

    I feel ripped off. I think that all people with Vista Ultimate should receive a free upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate. This would make me feel a little better about it, but I still feel that Microsoft has let all its best customers down.

    I bought Vista Ultimate 2 weeks after it was released. 6 months later I made the permanent switch to Mac and got a job at Apple. Unfortunately, my programming requires Windows so I will be needing Windows 7. Needless to say, I will not be paying for a copy.

  48. Total sham. For this former user, I’ve moved well away from buying Microsoft products again. This was just an appallingly self-serving move aimed at increasing revenue, rather than a two-way arrangement.
    Indeed, installing Ultimate cost me the use of my Vaio webcam and bluetooth stack (between Sony and Microsoft, they both disavowed responsibility for incompatible drivers), despite advertising the product in the retail box.
    I don’t think these business practices will hold out much longer. There’s at least a few people here who’ve moved well away.

  49. I’ve been really pleased with all the ultimate extras I have recieved over the years. They have exceeded my wildest dreams and I feel I have got excellent value for my money. What amazing extras are these you may ask. Well… Ah yes, I see what you mean. Maybe ultimate isn’t quite the word. Perhaps they should have been called Windows half baked and not really worth having extras. It was all in the anticipation, the actual extras were a total letdown.

  50. More than 4 years after this was put out… I got one game, a bunch of language packs which I’ve no use for (but sure as heck wouldn’t be regarded as “extras” to people from those countries), and enhancements to BitLocker, which is only useful for home users with paranoia – or dumb enough to write passwords in a notepad document. Thankfully, I didn’t pay full price for Ultimate. But I still wish I’d just bought some damn beer instead.

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