Microsoft dumps Ultimate Extras from Windows 7

Cites 'existing features' focus to explain why it's ditching add-on idea

Microsoft Corp. will not offer "Ultimate Extras" in Windows 7, the company has confirmed, saying it abandoned the heavily criticized concept to focus on "existing features."

"Our new approach to planning and building Windows doesn't have the capacity to continue to deliver features outside the regular release cycle," a company spokeswoman said in response to questions about Windows 7. "While our core development team is focused on building the next release; our sustained engineering team is focused on updates to existing features. As a result, we don't plan to create Ultimate Extras."

Microsoft said last week that it will deliver a Windows 7 Ultimate edition as part of the new operating system release, but it has not spelled out in detail any of the six versions' feature lists.

Ultimate Extras was among the elements Microsoft cited in the months leading up to the early-2007 release of Windows Vista Ultimate to distinguish it from lower-priced versions. According to Microsoft's marketing, Extras was to be "cutting-edge programs, innovative services and unique publications" that would be regularly offered only to users of Vista's highest-priced edition.

But users blasted Microsoft for the paltry number of add-ons it released and its leisurely development pace. Just five months after Vista was launched, critics started to complain, which led Microsoft to promise that it would do better.

Two months later, however, users again pounded Microsoft on blogs and the company's own support forums as its self-imposed deadline for delivering more add-ons came and went without any new downloads.

Currently, Microsoft barely mentions Extras in the online pitch for Vista Ultimate, where the feature has been relegated to a short paragraph at the end of a long list. "Sometimes you feel like a grown-up kid," it reads. "You love gadgets and anything that makes your computer more interactive. Windows Vista Ultimate Extras offer you additional security features and games that make Windows more fun and easier to use."

A company blog dedicated to Ultimate Extras, where company employees occasionally posted news of the feature, is no longer online. It was also a magnet for critics.

The last time that Microsoft offered new Extras to Vista Ultimate users was in September 2008, when it released a puzzle game, Windows Tinker; a sound effects package to go with the game; and a trio of DreamScene video screensavers.

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