A lot has been written about how Microsoft released Windows Vista too early and with too many bugs to make is a feasible platform for people looking for a relatively hassle-free platform. If you liked being at the cutting edge then I'm sure you'd be happy to live with the bugs, but if happened to be looking a stable work platform, the general opinion was that it was best to stick with XP for a while. Now though, things are changing. Vista is getting better ... slowly.
Over the past few weeks we've not only seen a beta for the long awaited SP1 fall into the hands of a small pool of beta testers (of which I'm one), we've also seen a fair few compatibility, performance and reliability releases, specifically KB938979, KB938194 and KB941649.
I've installed all these updates onto several systems in the lab and what I'm noticing is that while KB938979 and KB938194 resulted in very litter overall benefit (the main benefit came from KB938979 and the fix to the "estimated time remaining" when copying or moving large files bug, but this was more of an annoyance rather than a critical problem), I'm seeing considerable improvement to both performance and reliability after installing SP1 and KB941649 on all systems. In particular, Vista startup times are improved considerably and overall reliability is infinitely better. What's even better is that there's no sign on a downside to applying these patches.
Several cynics have commented on the timing of these releases and wonder if they have anything to do with the imminent release of Mac OS X Leopard. While it's easy to entertain such theories, I don't put too much stock in them. It takes time to identify and fix issues, especially within a complex OS such as Vista. We're not yet at the year mark since Vista went RTM so it's still early days. Should Microsoft have been faster and more aggressive in releasing patches is a point worth debating, but that's history now, what matters is that we're starting to see real progress being done in bringing Vista up to scratch. Some areas are still waiting to be fixed (for example, I can easily replicate the network transfer speed bug on a fully patched SP1 beta version of Vista), I'm pleased with the progress I'm seeing.
While I've been highly critical of Vista as it was when it went RTM back in November of 2006, With the bundle of patches already released and Vista SP1 now on the horizon, I'm starting to see light at the end of the dark tunnel that I've been in for the past eleven months ... and I'm hopeful that it's not a train coming in the opposite direction!