commentary It's not really a mid-life crisis, not really. But eighteen months after Vista appeared - and eighteen months before Windows 7 - Vista has bought a metaphoric red sports car and a new pair of tight jeans, and is getting ready to go on the pull.
Microsoft is rallying the troops with its Worldwide Partner Conference getting told -Today we are drawing a line and are going to start telling the real story" about Vista. It's compatible, no matter what people think. It's secure, no matter what people think. It's so reliable and easy to use that people who buy Business and Ultimate pre-installed on new PCs will get free coaching and support. Pick the ironies out of that one at your leisure.
There's a big new advertising campaign coming, you lucky people. The details are yet to be revealed, but the prime target is the increasingly annoying Apple - which has clearly goaded Microsoft beyond endurance by having an OS that people actually love, having a cross-platform one-message approach that actually works, having content and portable appliance strategies that actually work, and having much, much better adverts. That actually work.
The trouble is, Vista is sunk. The dog is dead. It doesn't actually matter now whether everything Microsoft says about today's Vista is true or not, because Windows 7 is coming tomorrow. And it doesn't matter what Microsoft says about Windows 7 - if it really is basically Vista but better, then why buy Vista now when a better version is on its way? And if it's not really very Vista at all, then why buy Vista now and risk running an orphan OS? You can finesse those arguments any way you like, but since the days of Adam Osborne one of the rules of the game is that announcing a new version of anything sends out the funeral notice for the old.
There will be plenty of sales, of course, because for most people buying new PCs online or on the high street there is no perception of choice. Where people do realise there's a choice, then Apple's winning - and in organisations, over the remaining lifetime of Vista, the choice of not spending any more money for a while on stuff they don't actually need is going to be irresistable. Show me anyone or anything on the planet who actually needs Vista.
Hence MS' new focus on Apple as the enemy: it's the only place it has a hope of holding back the tide. But if the expensive advertising campaign just pitches MS as an Apple-wannabe ("Look! Zune! Windows Mobile! Vista! Live! And they work together for a really cool lifestyle choice!") then I fear we all know how well that'll play against iPod, iPhone and OS X.
The other side of the question is: if you woke up one day as CEO of Microsoft, what would you do to turn that ship around - assuming you couldn't recruit Steve Jobs?