Recently, we suggested that a cut-down version of Windows 7 should be made available free to owners of Windows Vista. OK, so that's not going to happen, much as we think it should.

So here's a more plausible idea: Windows 7 should be given free to owners of Vista Ultimate as a final 'sorry we screwed you over' Ultimate Extra.

Those who bought Vista Ultimate were supposedly guaranteed "cutting-edge programs, innovative services and unique publications" in exchange for the extra money they stumped up for this uber-edition of Vista.

Here's what was promised at the time in the 'Learn more about Windows Ultimate Extras' Control Panel applet:

What are Windows Ultimate Extras?
Windows Ultimate Extras are programs, services and premium content for Windows Vista Ultimate. These features are available only to those who own a copy of Windows Vista Ultimate.
With Windows Ultimate Extras you get:

Cutting-edge programs
Enjoy Microsoft programs that are available only through Windows Ultimate Extras. Windows Update notifies you when new downloads become available.

Innovate services
Benefit from unique services that can help you tailor your computing experience to your digital lifestyle. These services are designed to help you make your experience more powerful, productive, and personal.

Unique publications
Download premium content that focuses on your digital lifestyle. Discover techniques and strategies that help you get the most out of Windows Vista Ultimate.

Sounds great, right?

What was actually delivered were animated desktop wallpapers, a bunch of language packs, a couple of games, BitLocker and EFS Enhancements, and some new sound schemes.

Many similar features could be had for nothing on any shareware site.

Then Service Pack 1 shipped and corrected a number of bugs. One of those bugs was the description of Windows Ultimate Extras. After installing SP1, the description was reduced to read:

What are Windows Ultimate Extras?
Windows Ultimate Extras are designed for Windows Vista Ultimate customers to extend Windows features or just making your computer more fun.

What a way to reward your most loyal customers.

As Microsoft-watching blogger Long Zheng wrote in June 2007 in a post entitled 'Windows Ultimate Extras is a sham - where's the responsibility?' "[Ultimate Extras is] filled with tantalizing buzzwords that would reach deep into the hearts of every geek and Microsoft-fanboy... with Ultimate Extras, people are betting on a promise - that Microsoft will deliver useful enhancements to them regularly. And so far, stepping into the maturity of this OS release, that is an empty promise. A promise now not far from a lie."

So Microsoft spoke up. On the Windows Vista Ultimate blog, Barry Goffe, director of Windows Vista Ultimate, apologised and said "Our goal is to provide the highest-quality, most secure and reliable offerings, and as a result we are continuing our work on these offerings." (The link is currently dead as is the entire windowsultimate.com domain, oddly enough.)

New Extras were few and far between, though. It's hardly surprising that Microsoft has since disbanded the Ultimate Extras team and dumped Ultimate Extras for Windows 7 - after all, if you're going to spend time and money developing cool new programs for Windows you really want every Windows user to be able to enjoy them, not just the few who are running Ultimate.

But here's the thing, Microsoft. Your most enthusiastic users shelled out a load of cash on an empty promise, and you should say thanks. So drop a copy of Windows 7 in Ultimate Extras the day before it goes on sale to the public.