One year later: Where are the killer Vista apps?

One year later: Where are the killer Vista apps?

Summary: In January, I posted the question: "Where are the killer Vista apps?" One year after the Vista launch, I am wondering again: Where are they? What is taking developers, like Yahoo, so long to deliver a mere pre-beta of a Vista-optimized product?


At the Consumer Electronics Show last January, Microsoft and Yahoo made a big deal out of a Vista-optimized version of Yahoo Messenger that was supposedly one of many compelling Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) apps in the pipeline.

On December 6, one year later, Yahoo announced a pre-beta of its Vista instant-messaging app. And still no word on what took so long or when Yahoo will get the final version out there.

What gives? Aren't applications supposedly what sell an operating system? If so, where are the must-have Vista apps built to take advantage of the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) graphics, the Windows Communication Foundation WCF) communications and Windows Workflow (WF) underpinnings of Vista?

Microsoft Client Platform Technical Evangelist Tim Sneath has been cataloging "great WPF applications." With Yahoo Messenger, he is now up to 16. Sneath's list doesn't include many household-name software developers (other than Yahoo and Roxio). Most of the apps on his list are custom business applications.

Is WPF too hard to write to? Is there insufficient positive payback for optimizing for WPF? Over on the blog, Long Zheng wonders aloud:

"One of the major roadblocks for WPF applications has been performance and it looks like this application (Yahoo Messenger) suffers the same fate. On a dual-core system with a more than plentiful graphics card, this application can’t even render the emoticon popout opening and closing without obvious pauses. Generally when anything animates, CPU usage flies right up and performance hits rock bottom."

Or maybe it's the fact that the real tool suite for writing Vista applications -- Visual Studio 2008 -- only was released to manufacturing a few weeks ago? Developers attempting to write to WPF, WCF and WF, until now, had to use some stop-gap tools from Microsoft to take advantage of these new Vista technologies.

In January, I posted the question: "Where are the killer Vista apps?" One year after the Vista launch, I am wondering again: Where are they? Anyone know of any new applications coming that will make Vista more compelling to consumers and/or businesses?

Topics: Social Enterprise, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • They're not difficult to write...

    No Mary, it's because there will be no killer application.

    "Next killer app" is a hackneyed holdover from the late 80's after the Macintosh took (some of) the world by storm on account of Pagemaker, i.e. desktop publishing. Since then people kept asking what the next killer application would be. However as history shows, the next wave is usually more serendipity than any actualization of marketing blowing sunshine up people's orifices.

    Before Pagemaker caused the creative types to take on a new religion called the Macintosh there was the spreadsheet and in particular, Lotus 1-2-3.

    As for the web, it just happened. It certainly caught Microsoft off guard. It also lent credence to something that I had seen in action during my college days in the UNIX lab, i.e. "the network is the computer" (also a Sun marketing line). The artifacts of the web are what makes things interesting... as a function of ubiquitous connectivity, e.g., social networks.

    The reality is, there will be no killer Vista apps. The top three things people do in the home are:

    1) Browse the web
    2) Email
    3) Play games

    Guess what? I can do the top two just fine without Vista. And as for the third one, Vista has consistently done p*ss poor in comparison to Windows XP. Time and time again I've read of frame rate issues when a game that runs perfectly fine on Windows XP with DirectX 9 goes to Vista with its DirectX 10, in some cases the penalty has been at high as 30% drop in performance.

    In some of these cases the games are *RECENT* and were released AFTER Vista was brought to market so any arguments about compatibility are naught in my book.

    There simply is no reason to move to Vista. While I do subscribe to running a non-administrative desktop and Vista will make life more difficult for malware once it becomes pervasive (though being a seasoned IT pro I can leverage Windows XP to achieve the same goal), given how poorly Vista has done with entertainment software, it's hard to justify to moving to Vista in a home setting.

    As for a business setting, it's just a new desktop OS. Most people use web applications and Outlook (in my company) and that's about it. Vista ads no intrinsic value here whatsoever.

    • I'm trying to find the "reduced game performance" with a microscope . . .

      Okay, you may lose a frame or two per second in Vista, but not enough to be called "P*ss poor." All of the games I've tried work just as good in Vista as XP - any loss of performance was not noticeable at all, and once I upgraded my system to better specs all performance woes evaporated.

      Now - if you're running a game in DirectX 9, and the game supports DirectX 10, and you switch to DirectX 10, of course there will be a frame rate drop, because you're getting greatly improved render quality. It's a trade off between quality and speed. If you want the speed you had in DirectX 9, set the quality to what it was when it was using the DirectX 9 renderer.

      The "30%" loss is probably from a game trying to take advantage of the increased quality that DX10 offers. It's a quality/speed trade off. Bring the quality settings down to DirectX 9 quality, and there should be little difference between Vista and XP.

      I've been running dozens of DirectX 9 games of all types on Vista, and so far I have had no troubles with performance. I'm suspecting the problem is not Vista itself, but rather the performance and speed tradeoff when switching to the DirectX 10 renderer.
      • Let me focus it a bit for you......

        "......once I upgraded my system to better specs all performance woes evaporated"

        So, you needed to upgrade your computer to get the performance you had with XP.

        So, XP runs fine. Vista = upgrade computer to do the same things that you could do
        with XP.

        Did I get that right.
        middle of nowhere
        • yup

          Kinda like when you moved from win9x to XP you needed upgraded h/w to get the same performance you got with 9x.

          With that said, it's common knowledge that Vista's game performance has been less than stellar. Now whether that's a Vista issue or a driver issue, I don't know, but virtually every comparison of games, run on a variety of graphics cards, has shown that XP is faster and it's frequently more than a minor difference.
        • Linux again

          Hate to say it but - I finally switched several of our home computers to Linux (PCLinuxOS, the most effortless system that I have tried out of half a dozen). I have found an instant speed increase of 50%^ or more. My favorite games run on it without missing a beat (World of Warcraft in OpenGL mode runs fast or faster). Wine so far has run anything I threw at it but I try to avoid anything Windows related. Gee, my 11 year old hardly noticed the difference but instantly managed to change her KDE desktop. My wife will switch as soon as I have convinced her that Money Dance will do everything she does in Quicken.

          The only obstacle remains Toontown which I consider plain abandoning, as entrenched as it is in Windows.

          So, to decrease your system's performance switch to Vista, to increase it by running all standard business apps, the most likely home applications, switch to Linux. It is no longer hard, obscure or requires compiling your own Kernel. Everything ran out of the box (or download) including my laptop.
          • not to argue, but...

            First of all, I use both windows and Linux PCs in my house, and as most linux users know, using KDE, the RAM use is high. It manages it well, but it does eat a lot of ram. with my linux boc (running Mandriva PowerPack) My 1g of ram is running at about 20% free almost all the time.
            And I don't see much of a performance difference between running Linux and running Vista.
            The only exception is if you are running just Linux, with no added extras, at which point linux is faster, but no faster than running XP with nothing on, or Vista basic.
      • Sometimes this is the case, others it's the opposite

        I've found that some games will run better on Vista and others will run better under XP. Unreal Tournament 2004 I've seen benchmarks and it loses a great deal of performance under Vista, but other games will actually run better. My example of this is Guitar Hero III Legends of Rock which is a bafflingly demanding game (Recommended card for this game is a GeForce 8800GT!) runs just a little better under Vista at default, and I can even enable better image quality settings under Vista than I'd be able to under XP for whatever reason.
      • I spent 3 Gs building my computer and the...

        MS 'Vista able' checker still found something wrong with my computer (my nVidia GeForce 7600GS, which supports and runs my two monitors on a daily basis, both of which are different pixel and refresh). Then I ran XP Home sp2 for awhile, it didn't like to keep window sizes and locations amongst other annoying bugs (like bluescreens that I never had in 2k with the same 32bit apps), so back to 2k pro sp4 I went and am happy as can be (MS peaked with 2k, been nothing but antipiracy, bugs and ingrained MS spyware in every OS since). I use OSS MPlayer/SMPlayer (plays virtually everything under the sun and no DRM/phoning home for codecs and updates). XP = prettier than 2k with more bugs and slightly more modern hardware support, Vista = prettier still with sloppy code, lots of 'it's gunna be your fault if you click OK' warnings absolving MS if your system gets attacked (after all, they have to leave it 'swiss cheese' for them and their partners to use you as a marketing tool-aka, gather 'consumer habit data') and even less hardware support, just 'Google' it, lots of people are mad they had to buy new printers, etc. Not me, I wouldn't even buy a new vid card 'CAUSE I AM NOT A GAMER AND HAVE NO NEED FOR A BETTER ONE. You shouldn't need a supercomputer just to boot an OS, pretty or not, so basically, I would have wound up with the "basic" Vista (XP like GUI) and the tons of bugs and lack of hardware support that goes with it...fah-ged-da-boud-dit! >:-/
      • Vista gaming performance loss is not DirectX related

        Gaming performance loss in Vista is more than just microscopic here are the minimum system requirements from Microsoft's own Windows Marketplace website for the game F.E.A.R.
        it has two different minimum system requirements depending if you have XP or Vista

        XP DirectX9 Vista DirectX9
        XP 1.7GHz Processor Vista 2.2Ghz processor
        XP 512MB RAM Vista 1GB RAM

        These minimum system requirements clearly state they are for each machine running DirectX9 and make the gaming performance loss in Vista plainly obvious, if you run that game on an XP machine with a 1.7GHz processer and 512mb RAM it will meet minimum sys req. If you run that game on an identical machine running Vista it will fall short of the minumum required processor speed by 30% and the minimum required RAM by 100%
        So this performance loss is purely an operating system issue it has nothing to do with DirectX.
    • Historical note on spreadsheets

      Just a historical note on this observation:

      "Before Pagemaker caused the creative types to take on a new religion called the
      Macintosh there was the spreadsheet and in particular, Lotus 1-2-3."

      The first widely poplular spreadsheet was VisiCalc and it was first written for the
      Apple II in 1979 by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston. The first mouse-driven
      spreadsheet, Microsoft Excel, was also first introduced as an Apple app for the
      Macintosh in 1985 and then later for Windows 2.0 in 1987.
      Len Rooney
    • You've made the argument there is no reason to move

      to any new OS really. As you said there is no real killer apps coming, except inside the corporate space, not retail and Vista does have a place there. There are nice handful of reasons to move to Vista on your network as you replace machines. Not many sites, i've worked with anyway, just ditch the current supported OS and move 100% to new OS. But Vista is working out fine for a large number of people i'm aware of and there is no reason NOT to move to it. <br>
      3-D alone is reason enough. If people are not able to see how 3-D will become part of all application from business to games, they have no imagination. There are some medical software vendors that had a vision and have releases of ER software packages that allow docs to bring in multiple images and be able to look at them in a rotating 3-D fashion to see things you wouldn't be able to easily fit together with a wall full of singular images. <br>
      But 3-D computing will be here to stay within a few years. The equipment is getting better and better. Average PCs now have a GB of RAM and getting 2, which is enough unless you are moving to Vista 64 bit, is cheap. <br>
      Toshiba makes one version of the x205 line you can get for 1499.00 now. Santa Rosa chipset, core 2 duo, lots of disc, nice graphics card etc etc. <br>
      The reviews on these x205 machines for games is coming back as same or better performane than XP and the newer glossy screens, although can be a glare issue, are so bright and vivid the experience is enhanced just from that. <br>
      The one x205-sli uses dual GPUs for gaming purposes.
      I don't think the common machine running Vista high end multimedia stuff is far off. <br>
      Vista Ultimate or home premium media center is far above the XP MC machines. Have you compared? <br>
      Not an apologist for Vista, but like the latest version of Ubuntu or Leopard or any OS....what are any giving you? Apple forces you to move to Leopard if you buy a new machine and with PCs at least you have some choice. <br>
      I've read, elsewhere where the population of vein popping MS haters isn't so high and people are more objective and many many people absolutely love the new GUI on Vista once they get used to it and don't want to ever go back to boring old XP. <br>
      Sort of like when XP came out, why would we need XP over win 2000 pro. But most people, after the first year or so, found they liked XP better.
      With the visual changes, the possibilities of applications grows by a factor I suppose is unknown still. But i'm sure we'll see. 100 million users is quite a nice little audience to target.....and that's just getting started.
      • 3-D ???

        <i>"Vista is working out fine for a large number of people i'm aware of and there is no reason NOT to move to it.
        3-D alone is reason enough."</i>

        <b>What the hell has 3-D got to do with anything?

        You sain XP or Linux can't run 3-D apps?

        Does Compiz mean anything to you?

        You should change your moniker, having Linux in it is embarrasing.
        • YES 3-D. Obviously you are one of those who

          feel ad hominem attacks are perfectly in order. You're what's embarassing, the classic zealot. <br><br>
          I meant natively. I know all about beryl and I never said Linux couldn't do 3-D. <br><br>
          What I'm saying is the large Windows presence is more likely to push out 3D apps. When I get to the point of writing 3-D apps for customers, if I ever do, i'm not doing much coding these days but more project mgmt with site mgmt and admin, I'm not going to plan to load and maintain 3rd party 3-D software on every machine when I don't have to. Thats nuts. Just move to Vista as machines need replaced. <br><br>
          vista also offers much better security, UAL is very cool although getting wrapped by the zealots and Vista supports some very cool stuff in the newly released .net 3.5 framework using visual studio 2008. <br>
          I use visual studio regularly and find it to be a great development environment. I'm not saying .NET is better than the Java runtime of today, but I prefer it for many reasons. <br>
          I recall when the phrase "knifing the baby" was used on here every other post about how MS would "kill off" and upstarts or by them or whatever. The entire Linux zealots population (majority of linux users) and Apple (including their God-like leader) have been trying to "knife the baby" that is Vista since before it was released. It is a campaign of rhetoric and people who hate Vista and every single person they know has had major crash issues 100 times a day and all of their friends friends and so on and so on. <br>
          Leopard showed us how much Apple was shooting for creating a Vista lookalike and how even in a very controlled environment where the hardware and software is almost completely under Apple's control, they could still have a collosal failure and an OS that make Vista look blazing fast on 512MB.
          • .Net

            Not sure large corporations are happy about writing in .Net. I work for a significant software company that covers many platforms and the last thing we want to do is lock ourselves into one operating system.

            Given SWT there is little reason to develop in other languages. I am not big on Java due to performance but its drawbacks are far outweighed by its portability, something that cannot be said about Vista. IBM, HP and many others have bought into Java lock, stock and barrel and I would consider it a serious mistake to bet on .NET these days.
          • I don't think it's quite that dramatic.

            Of course IBM is not using .NET. They developed SWT to begin with and it's true java has a huge headstart being out there in the wild for a long time now. <br>
            However, much like deciding on which OS to run your site with, it would be like saying using windows is a huge mistake with OSS running at some very large organizations. <br>
            I just don't see where that is true. .NET is used heavily in industry right now. I'm not going to be writing any commercial code and I'm betting on .NET gaining a solid following, beyond what is has already. <br>
            I write code for medium size site intranets if I write it at all. .NET allows for very very quick web and even distributed apps. I believe i can code a solid distributed app in C# with .NET much faster than any other tool or environment.
          • I don't install anything...

            that requires .Nut to be installed too. .Nut to me is just another spy-tool of Microsnoop.
  • Vista Ultimate Extras...

    Where are all of the Vista Ultimate Extras that were promised? Gee, I got Texas Hold'Em, BitLocker, DreamScence, and 35 language packs. If I had to pay for my version, I would be VERY VERY pissed off by now.
    • Well, you do get Vista Business wrapped into ...

      one OS with the media center stuff so you can attach to the lan at work or play. And it's 10 times superior to XP Media center edition. <br> <br>
  • They are removing it in SP-1

    And beleive it or not, this removal of the killer app will be the first step in more enterprise deployment.

    • You beat me to the punch

      I was just about to point out that Microsoft
      is promising to remove the ONE killer app
      that Vista has, the kill switch.

      Now, if they would only remove their
      corollary to the coroner's office, their
      EULA, their patients might live a
      near-normal life.
      Ole Man