Vista: Where are the killer apps?

Windows Vista ships worldwide starting January 30. So where are the rest of the Vista killer apps -- the ones that will convince users that they need Vista sooner rather than later?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

If you've seen any Windows Vista demos over the past year, you've probably seen Microsoft show off a handful of Vista-customized applications, like The New York Times Reader, North Face's kiosk application, and iBloks' multimedia-sharing wares.

But where are the rest of the Vista killer apps -- the ones that will convince users that they need Vista sooner rather than later?

Sure, there's Office 2007, which will work "better together" with Vista than it will on Windows XP. But are there other Vista-exploitive apps in the pipeline -- ones which take advantage of Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Communication Foundation, the Vista Sidebar and Sideshow and other new Vista features?

Microsoft officials say that 1,400 independent software vendors (ISVs) worldwide have committed to providing applications that "exploit the new features of Vista" some time during the first six months after it launches, meaning between Tuesday January 30 and July 30.

Microsoft launched in June 2006 its "See Vista" marketing Web site that highlighted about 20 of these applications, including a virtual sports-car test-drive site created by Mercedes-AMG; a rare-books reader developed by the British Library; a health-monitoring application created by Allscripts Healthcare Solutions; and a CRM application developed by Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January, Microsoft and its partners showed off a couple of previously unannounced Vista-customized applications, including Yahoo Messenger for Windows Vista and Fox Sports multimedia application. And in mid-January, Microsoft announced that Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro were planning imminent releases of Vista-compatible security products. And Microsoft's Windows Live OneCare team began delivering the Vista-compatible 1.5 release of its security/backup service last week.

But where are the big Vista application announcements from Adobe (other than its PDF standardization counterstrike)? IBM? Intuit? Microsoft's own Dynamics ERP division? Many of the largest ISVs and services providers are noticeable in how little they have to say on the subject of Vista.

"Future versions (both 7.X and 8.X0 of Lotus Notes will support Vista," said Ken Bisconti, IBM vice president of Workplace, Portal & Collaboration Software, via an e-mail statement. "Lotus Domino will be supported on Windows 'Longhorn,' the server version of the operating system in subsequent releases after "Longhorn" is generally available.

Intuit, for its part, is pushing the QuickBooks 2007 release it delivered in the fall as its Vista-compatible show piece. (Intuit decided against attempting to make previous versions of QuickBooks compatible with Vista, claiming the amount of changes that would be required were too many and too difficult.) Intuit also has developed a timetracking-service gadget for the Vista Sidebar that it plans to make available, starting this week, company officials said.

Autodesk officials say their current core CAD applications are working with Vista after applying downloadable patches. But a new, Vista-optimized version of Autodesk's DWF design file format won't be out until the next rev of Autodesk's core suite of products, which is coming some time later this year.

"The Vista Viewer will make our kinds of applications more consumable," said Autodesk Senior Director Kevin Wandryk. "Vista's desktop search and thumbnail preview capabilities is interesting to our customers, too, since in the CAD world, these kinds of files can be really large."

The next version of Autodesk's core products "will put DWF data in an XPS wrapper," Wandryk said. (XPS is Microsoft's alternative to Adobe's PDF technology.)

Longtime Macromedia and Adobe partner Electric Rain is working on a Vista-optimized presentation application that is something like a cross between PowerPoint and Flash, called StandOut.

Due out in the second calendar quarter of 2007, "StandOut will be a Vista desktop application from the ground up," said CEO Mike Soucie. The product will make use of the Windows Presentation Foundation graphics subsystem, as well as many of Vista's more than 8,000 new application programming interfaces (APIs), Soucie said.

"Because Vista's APIs are so rich, we didn't have to do so much from scratch, like we did when developing Flash apps," Soucie said.

Microsoft's Dynamics business unit released in the fall of 2006 a refresh of its CRM application that was Vista-compatible. The ERP side of the house has said it is readying versions of Microsoft's various ERP apps that will "light up" with Vista. But officials declined to provide specifics, saying that Microsoft will have more to show and tell in March at its Convergence conference.

Then there are the vendors who say Vista is irrelevant to them and their customers. Officials with Microsoft CRM rival Salesforce.com said they have no plans to tweak their software-as-a-service offerings to take advantage of Vista or its Internet Explorer 7 interface.

"Vista is completely the wrong approach, from our perspective," said Kendall Collins, senior vice president of marketing with Salesforce.com. "We are not doing anything about Vista. We are ideologically opposed to it. And we haven't heard much from our customers about IE 7. We are not finding many people using it. We will support whatever our customers demand."

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