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Microsoft Hopes Add Ons Will Boost Windows Vista

The Extras pack includes a number of tools and utilities designed to make the operating system more secure and user friendly.
After a delay of several weeks, Microsoft has shipped a free add-on pack for buyers of its pricey Windows Vista Ultimate operating system -- utilities the company hopes will help reverse flagging interest in the software shown by some consumers and PC makers.

The Extras pack, made available Wednesday, includes a number of tools and utilities designed to make the operating system more secure and user friendly. Among them are a poker game called Windows Hold 'Em and a tool that makes it easier for users to employ Vista's BitLocker security system.

Also included is Windows DreamScene, which enables the use of looped, full-motion video as desktop wallpaper rather than a static image.

Microsoft, however, said it would further delay, until October, the release of an Extra update that allows a single PC to support the use of multiple languages in various software applications.

Microsoft originally said it planned to release Vista Ultimate Extras in the summer. "Unfortunately summer never really came to Seattle this year, so we missed our cue," said Barry Goffe, Microsoft's director for Vista Ultimate, in a blog post.

Microsoft said it is planning to release additional Extras for Vista Ultimate in the future. Users will be notified when new Extras are available through the Ultimate Extra control panel. Microsoft has said it will release a full service pack for Windows Vista in early 2008.

Despite the release of new bells and whistles for Windows Vista, some reports indicate that consumers and businesses are shying away from the operating system due to concerns about its price and steep system requirements. The software requires a PC with at least a 1-GHz processor, 1 Gbyte of system memory, and a 40-Gbyte hard disk.

Some users have complained that Vista's appetite for computing resources starves applications, such as office software and games, of the horsepower they need to run properly. Responding to such criticisms, a number of major PC manufacturers -- including Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Lenovo -- have begun offering consumers "downgrade" discs that allow them to revert their systems from Windows Vista to Windows XP.

Internet retailer Amazon.com recently marked down the full version of Vista Ultimate from $400 to $325.