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.
But for me the real beauty of Vista was the organizational change that they had to make to stop longhorn and start over from scratch. It started Microsoft on the journey to a better place. It also helped that they had little to no credible competitor in the os space. Still they started losing people to OS X. Back when Apple still cared about it.
The horror, is also the opportunity cost of that restart. We were promised the culmination of the cairo project. Object oriented file systems built on top of sql server! They lost quite a bit of talent in that time period as frustrated project leads left MS for Google.
Longhorn/Vista would have bankrupted any other company at the time.
My memories of Vista were all the horror stories so many people were telling. It was an awful system according to all of them. Unstable, problematic, and nothing but a headache.
Then it came time for me to order a laptop for a dev project that had to support Windows and C#/.Net. I ended up getting Thinkpad T61p that came preloaded with Vista (Pro?). I have to say, it worked quite well. Everything seemed to be just fine, and mostly stable. Sure the UAC stuff was annoying, but not insurmountable.
Overall I was pleased with it, both Vista and the laptop. I still have that Thinkpad by the way. Upgraded beyond the system specs at the time, and now running Server 2012 for some dev projects.