Happy birthday Vista?

It hardly seems possible...

It hardly seems possible, but it was one year ago today that Microsoft foisted Windows Vista onto a wary world. (OK -- OEMs and enterprises had Vista foisted on them in November 2006, but January was the "big launch" for most of us).

But instead of the "Wow Starts Now," Jan. 30, 2007 was more like the "When Started Then": When will drivers be available for legacy hardware? When will compatible software show up? When is Microsoft planning to release SP1 to fix all the things it got wrong? When will PC makers stop selling XP machines, and can I buy some now before it's too late?

Not surprisingly, Redmond is taking the occasion to mark Vista's success. For example, Microsoft gives itself high marks for Vista security. Of course, it's grading on a curve compared to XP's first year. "The highest quality, most secure Windows operating system ever" (per Sir Ballmer of Redmond) had only 30 major security flaws patched (with another 36 waiting to be fixed), or about half as many as XP did in its first year. That's a little like saying I may be fat, but that other guy is fatter, so that makes me thin. (Now pass the cream puffs.)

Over at the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Todd Bishop quotes Neil Charney, a Windows general manager spouting the usual Microsoft line:

We're really pleased at what we're seeing....We know that it's an ongoing effort to make sure that our customers are happy and satisfied and enjoying that experience.

What Charney probably meant was that users are enjoying an eXPerience. If Vista did anything in the last year, it was to boost XP's sagging reputation.

Microsoft reports that it sold 100 million Vista licenses in 2007, which means that roughly 4 out of 10 new machines shipped with Vista on them. By comparison, nearly 70 percent of PCs shipped with XP in its first year. According to NetApplications, about 11 percent of installed machines use Vista, compared to 75 percent running XP. So far, some 70,000 Windows sufferers have signed InfoWorld's Save XP petition to keep support for the aging OS going after its scheduled June 30 pull date.

Microsoft has finally figured out what it takes to earn respect for one of its operating systems: release a new one that sucks harder than the last.

Perhaps the real birthday we should celebrate is Oct. 25, 2001 -- the date of XP's initial release.

By the time Windows 7 appears (in 2009, 2010, or 2011, depending on which source you believe), it's possible we may be offering a "Save Vista" petition. But at this point it seems rather doubtful.

Happy birthday, Vista. Try not to set yourself on fire as you blow out the candle.

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Robert X. Cringely

InfoWorld
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