First, have a look at Adrian Kingsley-Hughes' 19 months of Vista review. He's been running the operating system from the very first even slightly public beta, and he's happy with how it's gone. He's even-handed to a fault; yes, it's much better, no it's not earth-shattering, it's hard to tell if it's faster or more reliable but he thinks so, and it's hard to go back to XP even though the individual differences between that and the new operating system aren't that fab on a case by case basis.
Fair enough. I've been using Vista for around a third of that time, and I'd agree. Lukewarm enthusiasm, if you forget about all the DRM, licence and activation issues, usage restrictions, hardware demands and so on.
Now, think about how much this cost. Microsoft ain't saying - it's a good bet it doesn't know - but Business Week's best guess is that it took 10,000 people five years to develop Vista. Dean Takahashi, one of the old guard of tech journos in Silicon Valley, costs that at $200k per employee per year - an entirely reasonable guesstimate, given that you really shouldn't be at Microsoft for less than 100k per year and that an employee costs their employer twice their salary.
So that's five years and around ten billion dollars. Ten. Billion. Dollars. For something that, on the whole, is nicer than XP, but even its fans aren't making great claims for.
I wonder if Bill and Steve feel they've had their money's worth? Perhaps my expectations are unreasonably high, but if I spent ten billion dollars and got a copy of Vista, I'd be... disappointed. A bit like Bruce Eckhart, when the lights stayed on.
Think of it another way: when the first plans were made for Vista all the way back at the turn of the century, do you think that this is what they expected and hoped for?
As Takahashi reported, when he mused on similar lines last year, the last word has to go to a Microsoftie of some standing.
"I think about what it could have been,'' he said.