Microsoft has released a list of 800 applications it has officially verified so far to run bug-free on Windows Vista.
The list is notable for both its brevity and the absence of many applications popular on Windows XP, although Microsoft and analysts said that the majority of XP software could run, albeit with hiccups, on Vista.
Popular Windows software that is conspicuously missing from Microsoft's list includes Adobe Systems' entire line of graphics and multimedia software, Symantec's security products, as well as the Mozilla Foundation's open-source Firefox Web browser, Skype's free voice-over-IP software and the OpenOffice.org alternative to Microsoft Office.
Software that has been tested as part of Microsoft's Vista certification program to run on all 32- and 64-bit versions of Vista include CorelDraw and WordPerfect from Corel, PowerDVD from Cyberlink, Nero 7 Premium, Trend Micro AntiVirus and PC-Cillin, AutoCad 2008, QuickBooks 2007 from Intuit, Microsoft Office 2007 and many other Microsoft applications.
In addition, Google's Desktop Search and its Toolbar for Internet Explorer have earned Microsoft's approval.
Windows' extensive software ecosystem has long been one of the operating system's chief attractions. But Vista's long beta program last year allowed users to start compiling their own lists of applications that they claimed were broken or problematic on Vista.
Many of those were graphics-intensive games, which was the result of a new rendering engine, DirectX 10, introduced for Vista. But there are also a number of business and utility applications that have not been updated to ensure Vista compatibility. For instance, the latest version of Skype doesn't work on Vista. Firefox does work, though Mozilla has documented known issues.
Most of Adobe's multimedia software won't be officially supported for Vista until the middle of this year, though many applications can run today with minor problems.
Adobe, which will face competition from Microsoft this year when Microsoft releases its Expression suite of graphics and multimedia design tools, did not immediately return a request to comment.
Symantec is already facing similar competition from Microsoft, which released its OneCare security suite last year.
In statements on its website aimed at business and home users, Symantec said some of its software, such as Norton AntiVirus 2007, already works with Vista. Other Symantec software, such as Ghost 12, wouldn't be ready until mid-April.
Microsoft's Vista testing program, which vendors must pay to be a part of, has two levels: software that is "certified for Windows Vista" and software that "works with Windows Vista." At the moment, 108 applications have been certified, while 683 have been awarded the "works with" distinction.
ArcSoft got six of its more-popular multimedia applications certified because of demand from its hardware partners, according to vice-president of marketing and business development, Michael Downs. Most of ArcSoft's software is bundled with DVD-ROM drives and other accessories from third-party resellers.
Microsoft requested certification from the company so it could "slap that sticker on the [retail] box", Downs said. The certification process was fairly rigorous, he said, and involved filling out a lengthy application that was double-checked by a third-party service, VeriTest, on behalf of Microsoft.
The cost for testing ArcSoft's six applications was less than $US10,000 each, Downs said. ArcSoft plans to have most of its applications tested. For others, ArcSoft plans to wait until the next update of the software before releasing and testing a Vista version.
Microsoft said that getting certified would bring marketing benefits to software, such as a listing on Microsoft's Windows Marketplace site and the ability to use the logo on packaging and publicity materials.
How much would that boost sales for a company like ArcSoft? "It's hard to tell," Downs said.
A Gartner analyst, Michael Silver, said that because of the cost and time involved, a lot of vendors didn't participate in Microsoft's program.
For companies that tend to run both off-the-shelf software as well as custom applications written in-house, Silver said that the percentage of applications with problems on Vista ran as high as 50 per cent in some companies but wa less than 10 per cent in others. While many of those problematic applications wouldn't need to be replaced, he said, there was a good chance for disappointment for people that weren't careful.