Windows Ultimate Extras

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Windows Ultimate Extras are optional features offered by Microsoft to users of Windows Vista Ultimate and are accessible via Windows Update. Ultimate Extras replaced the market role of Microsoft Plus!, a product sold for prior consumer releases of Microsoft Windows.[1] According to Microsoft's Barry Goffe, the company's goal with Ultimate Extras was to delight customers who purchased the Ultimate edition of Windows Vista, the most expensive retail edition of the operating system.[2]

Windows Ultimate Extras have been discontinued as of Windows 7,[3] and the operating system also removes all installed extras upon an upgrade from Windows Vista Ultimate.[4][5]

List of Windows Ultimate Extras[edit]

Microsoft released a total of nine Ultimate Extras for users of Windows Vista Ultimate which are listed below. Additional extras were also proposed but not released, including a podcast creation utility, a game performance optimization utility, custom themes,[6] Windows Movie Maker effects and transitions, templates for Windows DVD Maker,[2] digital publications,[7] and the Group Shot photo manipulation application developed by Microsoft Research and shown by Bill Gates at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2007.[8]

Although not considered to be Ultimate Extras by the company, the Ultimate Extras team also released two wallpapers for users of Windows Vista Ultimate. Titled Start and Strands, the wallpapers were based on the design of the Windows Vista Ultimate retail packaging and were made available in three different display resolutions.[9][10]

BitLocker and EFS enhancements[edit]

The Windows BitLocker Drive Preparation Tool, and Secure Online Key Backup utility, were among the first Ultimate Extras to be made available, and were released to coincide with the general retail availability of Windows Vista.[11][12][13] The BitLocker Drive Preparation Tool prepares the hard drive to be encrypted with Microsoft's BitLocker volume encryption technology.[14] Secure Online Key Backup would enable users to create an off-site backup of their BitLocker recovery password and Encrypting File System recovery certificates at the Digital Locker of the Windows Marketplace digital distribution platform.[15] Secure Online Key Backup was rendered inoperable after the Digital Locker shut down on August 2009.[16][17]

Multilingual User Interface language packs[edit]

Unlike previous versions of Windows, Windows Vista is language-independent; the language architecture separates the language resources for the user interface from the binary code of the operating system.[18] Support for installing additional languages is included in the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista.[19] In the Ultimate edition, the functionality is made available through Windows Update as Ultimate Extras.[20]

Microsoft stated that 16 language were made available on January 30, 2007.[21] The company would release the remaining language packs on October 23, 2007 for a total of 35 language packs.[22] An additional 36th language pack version is available for Windows Vista that supports traditional Chinese characters with the Hong Kong encoding character set.[23]


Microsoft Tinker[edit]

Main article: Microsoft Tinker

Microsoft Tinker is a puzzle game where players must navigate a robot through mazes and obstacles. A total of 60 levels are included, and players can create their own levels with a level editor.[24][25]

Hold 'Em[edit]

Hold 'Em, released on January 29, 2007,[12] is a poker card game that features a playing style similar to Texas hold 'em poker.[1][26] Hold 'Em allows users to play against up to five computer players with customizable levels of difficulty, and also allows users to customize aspects of the game's appearance; the game relies on DirectX to produce hardware-accelerated 3D animations and effects.[27] For optimal performance, Hold 'Em requires a computer with a Windows Experience Index rating of 2.0 or higher.[12]

According to Paul Thurrott, Hold 'Em was originally intended to be bundled alongside the premium games—Chess Titans, Mahjong Titans, and InkBall—included by default with the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista, but was instead made an Ultimate Extra because of its gambling themes.[1]

Windows sound schemes[edit]

A total of three sound schemes for Windows Vista were released: Ultimate Extras Glass, Ultimate Extras Pearl, and Microsoft Tinker. The first two were made available on April 22, 2008,[28] while the latter was made available on the same day as Microsoft Tinker.[25] The Glass and Pearl sound schemes are similar to the default sound scheme included with the operating system, which is designed in accordance with the design language and principles of the Windows Aero graphical user interface.[29][30]

Windows DreamScene[edit]

Main article: Windows DreamScene

Windows DreamScene is a utility that enables MPEG and WMV videos to be displayed as desktop backgrounds. DreamScene requires that the Windows Aero graphical user interface be enabled in order to function as the feature relies on the Desktop Window Manager to display videos on the desktop.[31]


Critical reception[edit]

Reaction to Windows Ultimate Extras was mixed. While Microsoft was praised for creating a value proposition for users who purchased the most expensive edition of Windows Vista, the company was criticized for its delays during delivery of updates,[32][33] perceived lack of quality of delivered updates,[33][34][35] and a lack of transparency regarding their development.[7][36] Early on, there were concerns that the features would not live up to users' expectations.[7] The company announced several Ultimate Extras in January, 2007, but only a fraction of these were released five months later.[37] After months without an official update from the company since January, Microsoft released an apology for the delays, stating that it intended to ship the remaining features before the end of summer of 2007.[37] The delays between consecutive updates and months of silence had led to speculation that the development team within the company responsible for the features had been quietly disbanded.[36]

When Microsoft announced its intentions to release the remaining Ultimate Extras and released an apology for delays, Paul Thurrott stated that the company had "dropped the ball" with the features.[37] Ed Bott wrote that Ultimate Extras were "probably the biggest mistake Microsoft made with Vista," and that the company would downplay the Ultimate edition of Windows 7 as a result.[17] Bott would later list them among his "decade's worth of Windows mistakes."[38]

Microsoft was also criticized for changing the description for Ultimate Extras within the operating system. The offerings slated to be made available were initially described as "cutting-edge programs," "innovative services," and "unique publications," but the description for the features within the Control Panel applet was later modified in Service Pack 1 to be more modest; this was interpreted as an attempt made by the company to avoid fulfilling prior expectations.[17][39][40]

Emil Protalinski of Ars Technica wrote that the Ultimate edition of Windows Vista "would have looked just fine without the joke that is 'Ultimate Extras'" and that the features were supposed to provide an incentive for consumers to purchase that edition, "not give critics something to point and laugh at."[41] In the second part of his review of Windows 7, Peter Bright of ArsTechnica wrote that "the value proposition of the Ultimate Extras was nothing short of piss-poor."[42] Bright would later criticize Microsoft's decision not to release Internet Explorer 10 for Windows Vista, but would go on to state that this was still "not as bad as the Ultimate Extras farce."[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Thurrott, Paul (October 6, 2010). "Windows Ultimate Extras Review". SuperSite for Windows. Penton. Retrieved May 28, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Bishop, Todd (March 23, 2008). "Software Notebook: Microsoft's Ultimate Extras overhyped, users underwhelmed". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  3. ^ Protalinski, Emil (February 6, 2009). "Microsoft: No Ultimate Extras for Windows 7". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  4. ^ Thurrott, Paul (February 10, 2009). "No Ultimate Extras in Windows 7. But wait, it gets worse". SuperSite for Windows. Penton. Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  5. ^ Oiaga, Marius (February 11, 2009). "Windows 7 Kills Ultimate Extras, Even Vista's". Softpedia. Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  6. ^ Thurrott, Paul (October 6, 2010). "Windows Vista Product Editions". SuperSite for Windows. Penton. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c Long, Zheng (February 27, 2007). "Is Windows Vista Ultimate Extras a sham?". istartedsomething. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  8. ^ Bishop, Todd (March 24, 2008). "Ultimate Extras: What happened to GroupShot". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  9. ^ Microsoft. "Ultimate Downloads". Archived from the original on March 15, 2007. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  10. ^ Oiaga, Marius (March 8, 2007). "Download the Ultimate Wow Windows Vista Wallpapers". Softpedia. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  11. ^ Oiaga, Marius (January 8, 2007). "Vista BitLocker and EFS Enhancements". Softpedia. Retrieved May 27, 2015. 
  12. ^ a b c Hill, Brandon (January 30, 2007). "Microsoft Delivers First Windows Vista Ultimate 'Extras'". DailyTech. Retrieved May 28, 2015. 
  13. ^ Block, Ryan (January 29, 2007). "Windows Vista Ultimate Extras go live". Engadget. AOL. Retrieved June 13, 2015. 
  14. ^ Microsoft. "Description of the BitLocker Drive Preparation Tool". Windows Support. Retrieved May 27, 2015. 
  15. ^ Microsoft (March 17, 2007). "Windows Vista Secure Online Key Backup release information". How-to. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  16. ^ Chandran, Chakkaradeep (December 12, 2008). "Microsoft: Closing your digital locker account". Neowin. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  17. ^ a b c Bott, Ed (August 17, 2009). "Windows 7 customers still paying for Microsoft's Ultimate mistakes". ZDNet. CBS Interactive. Retrieved June 14, 2015. 
  18. ^ Microsoft (March 7, 2007). "Guide to Windows Vista Multilingual User Interface". TechNet. Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  19. ^ Microsoft. "Install a display language". Windows How-to. Retrieved June 12, 2015. 
  20. ^ Microsoft. "Windows Vista Ultimate language pack release information". Windows How-to. Retrieved June 12, 2015. 
  21. ^ Microsoft (January 30, 2007). "Extras: Language Packs". Archived from the original on March 6, 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2015. 
  22. ^ Goffe, Barry (October 25, 2007). "Remaining Ultimate Extra Language Packs Released!". Microsoft. Archived from the original on October 25, 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2015. 
  23. ^ Microsoft. "Windows Vista: An Expanded View of Internationalization". MSDN. Retrieved June 11, 2015. 
  24. ^ Rivera, Rafael (September 23, 2008). "Microsoft Tinker Extra released to Windows Vista Ultimate users". Within Windows. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  25. ^ a b Protalinski, Emil (September 24, 2008). "Three new Ultimate Extras arrive, including Microsoft Tinker". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  26. ^ Bromham, Tony (February 1, 2007). "Microsoft Releases Texas Hold'em Game – Just for Fun!". PokerNews. Retrieved May 28, 2015. 
  27. ^ Microsoft. "The Hold 'Em game for Windows Vista Ultimate is available from Windows Update". How-to. Retrieved May 28, 2015. 
  28. ^ Flores, Chris (April 22, 2008). "New Ultimate Extras Released". Windows Vista Team blog. Microsoft. Archived from the original on April 30, 2008. Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  29. ^ Shultz, Greg (April 30, 2008). "Examine the new Ultimate Extras available for Windows Vista Ultimate". TechRepublic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved June 11, 2015. 
  30. ^ Allchin, Jim (November 9, 2006). "The Sounds of Windows Vista". Windows Vista Team Blog. Microsoft. Archived from the original on November 10, 2006. Retrieved April 25, 2015. 
  31. ^ Oiaga, Marius (January 8, 2007). "Windows DreamScene Adds Videos as Background for Vista". Softpedia. Retrieved May 28, 2015. 
  32. ^ Keizer, Gregg (June 28, 2007). "Critics: Vista Ultimate's promised add-ons just broken promises". Computerworld. IDG. Retrieved June 12, 2015. 
  33. ^ a b Phillips, Josh (June 13, 2007). "Ultimate Extras, Where are you?". Archived from the original on June 16, 2007. Retrieved June 12, 2015. 
  34. ^ Spector, Lincoln (September 8, 2008). "12 Unnecessary Vista Features You Can Disable Right Now". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 1, 2015. 
  35. ^ Hughes-Kingsley, Adrian (September 24, 2008). "Microsoft Tinker - Best Ultimate Extra so far (although the bar is set pretty low)". CNET. CBS Interactive. Retrieved June 1, 2015. 
  36. ^ a b Zheng, Long (June 14, 2007). "Windows Ultimate Extras is a sham – where’s the responsibility?". istartedsomething. Retrieved June 13, 2015. 
  37. ^ a b c Thurrott, Paul (July 2, 2007). "Microsoft in Vista Ultimate Extras Embarrassment". Windows IT Pro. Penton. Retrieved June 13, 2015. 
  38. ^ Bott, Ed (October 26, 2011). "A decade's worth of Windows mistakes that changed Microsoft (for better and worse)". ZDNet. CBS Interactive. Retrieved June 14, 2015. 
  39. ^ Long, Zheng (September 23, 2007). "The Ultimate con". istartedsomething. Retrieved June 11, 2015. 
  40. ^ Dunn, Scott (June 28, 2007). "Microsoft evades promise of Vista Ultimate Extras". Windows Secrets. Wiley Publishing Inc. Retrieved June 13, 2015. 
  41. ^ Protanlinski, Emil (April 22, 2008). "Microsoft releases two more Ultimate Extras". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved June 11, 2015. 
  42. ^ Bright, Peter (October 25, 2009). "Hasta la Vista, baby: Ars reviews Windows 7". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved June 1, 2015. 
  43. ^ Bright, Peter (April 15, 2011). "Microsoft's raw deal for Vista users: IE10 for Windows 7 only". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved June 11, 2015.