Well I seem to have hit a nerve (or struck a chord at least) with a lot of people with my recent post about the decidedly mixed reaction to Vista. It's the most heavily trafficked and commented post I've made here at ZDNet and reading through the comment thread reveals a few interesting topics of conversation. Aside from the ever-present Linux (or Mac OS) vs. Windows comments that are a staple of any contentious thread here in ZDNet-land, the actual issue I hoped to address – productivity – was well covered along with the historical perspective suggested by more than a few commenters that things were not so different when Windows XP (or Windows 2000) were first released.
I don't pretend to be a historian where such things are concerned but I can say with no reservations that my personal experience with both Win 2K and XP was nowhere near as disappointing or frustrating as what I'm going through with Vista. I recall that when Windows 2000 was first available, the company I was working with at the time had a mix of NT Workstation and Windows 98 SE machines and the upgrade was a huge improvement in both performance and stability. There were, of course, the Service Pack releases that continued to improve things (well, at least until the last one which was a freaking nightmare that we mostly avoided as we had already moved on to XP).
Windows XP was a big UI change – hold the Fisher-Price jokes please – but was also a significant change in the interaction design dimension as well. I remember being very excited about the improvements to the shell experience when I first dove into XP and, despite the changes in Vista, many of those core ideas live on. XP Service Pack 2 was a watershed release in my opinion. As a Tablet PC user, the updated Tablet PC bits in SP2 were a smashing success and made that form factor more than a curiosity and "cool but I don't really need that" feature set. The way Windows updated and protected itself was also radically changed during this time.
Getting back to the original topic of discussion, all of these releases made me feel more productive which, to date, Vista really has not. As a number of commenters noted, it seems that many of the decisions made related to how controls work and where they were moved to were made more for the sake of change than a comprehensible improvement in user experience.
It's also all too easy to send Vista into a weird fugue state simply by getting a little "mouse happy" and trying to perform too many operations quickly. The system almost always recovers once it's caught up with all my clicking but it's distracting and irritating to see all of my windows dim out and watch that spinning circle thing spin around and around. And no, there's nothing that's in any way less than up-to-date about the system I'm using Vista on – it's a recently released and well-configured Lenovo ThinkPad X61t Tablet PC with 2GB RAM, a big hard drive and a Core 2 Duo processor.
The jury's still out and I have no doubt that ultimately many of these issues will be resolved with the now-rumored performance releases and ultimately a SP1 release sometime in the future. Right now? I'm still wrestling with very mixed feelings.