Released to manufacturing on November 8, 2006 and shipping to consumers on January 30, 2007, Windows Vista had a troubled development and a troubled life once it shipped. But it was an essential Windows release, laying the groundwork for Windows 7 and beyond. For all the criticism that Vista and Microsoft received, the company never really backtracked on the contentious aspects of the release. After a while, those aspects just stopped being contentious.
I reviewed Windows Vista way back in 2006 for OSNews, in two parts, followed by another look at the operating system five months later (my fascination with post-XP Windows started all the way back in 2003, when I wrote a Longhorn review for OSNews - three years before I actually joined the OSNews team).
The importance of Windows Vista cannot be overstated. In hindsight, it was probably the most important Windows release since Windows 95, as it was a massive overhaul of countless crucial aspects of Windows NT that we still use and rely on today. A new graphics stack, a new audio stack, a new networking stack, a complete overhaul and cleaning of the lowest-level parts of the kernel, and so much more.
Windows Vista ended many terrible design decisions from the XP and earlier days. No more kernel access for developers, a new driver model, no more programs running as administrator, and so on. Microsoft forced Windows users to bite the bullet and endure endless UAC dialogs, but it all paid off in the end.
And on a personal note, Windows Vista came after Windows XP, and Windows XP was one of the worst operating systems I have ever used. I despise Windows XP, and would rather use a $200 2005 Acer laptop with Vista than a fancy 2009 Sony VAIO or whatever running XP. Windows Vista set the scene for Windows 7 to murder Windows XP for good, and for that reason alone, Vista gets 56 thumbs up from me.
Vista was part of a very large undertaking inside Microsoft to completely overhaul the low-level parts of Windows, to prepare the platform for the next decade and beyond. It led to Windows 7, Windows Phone, Windows on the Xbox One, and countless other variants. Not all of those are or were successful, but each of them are still fruits of the incredible engineering work Microsoft's women and men undertook to salvage the architectural trainwreck that was Windows XP and earlier.
They did an absolutely amazing job, and on this day, I commend them for it.