Mention the name "Windows Vista" in most circles, you'll probably get a mixture of reactions. Groans, snickers, and utter disgust.
Windows XP wasn’t supposed to last as long as it did. As soon as XP shipped in 2001, work got under way for the next version, code-named “Longhorn.” The feature list got bigger and more ambitious as time went on, and Longhorn was shown off with great fanfare at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference in 2003.
Those plans were tossed aside completely in August 2004, with what later became infamous as the “Longhorn reset.” In September 2005, Windows boss Jim Allchin publicly acknowledged the do-over, acknowledging that Longhorn had been “crashing into the ground.”
The design goals of what was eventually named Windows Vista were admirable: improve Windows' security model, introduce widespread 64-bit technology into the desktop OS, improve networking performance, refine the user interface, and better integrate search capabilities. Unfortunately, the unwieldy and disorganized project took more than five years to deliver unsatisfactory results.
Windows Vista was released to manufacturing in November 2006, with a consumer debut in January 2007. Vista got mostly negative reviews, thanks to significantly higher resource requirements, incompatibilities with some popular hardware and software programs, and a controversial security feature called User Account Control (UAC) that was derided as overly intrusive. Service Packs would later resolve many of Vista's issues, but its reputation as a slow, buggy failure was sealed.
Eventually, the technologies that were created for Windows Vista were refined and re-engineered. Vista’s successor, Windows 7, was released a little less than three years after Vista's introduction to much better reviews.
Nobody knows how much the Vista debacle really cost Microsoft, but it damaged the company's reputation and almost certainly amounted to billions of dollars of stalled upgrades and a significant exodus of users to Apple’s Mac platform.