Vista's first year leaves little to celebrate

It's Vista's first anniversary. Lose no time in celebrating the birthday of an operating system struggling to make its mark

A year since its launch, there is only the smallest of fairy cakes for Vista. Although Microsoft claims high achievements for its new Windows operating system, the sense on the ground is that the OS is lagging badly behind people's expectations. Meanwhile sprightly geriatric XP is about to get a new shot of monkey glands in Service Pack 3.

You don't have to go far to find people who've decided to sit Vista out until a good driver for deployment comes along. And with XP still kicking, it doesn't make commercial sense for developers to exclude significant market share by writing Vista-only products.

With Microsoft's near-total control of the consumer and enterprise OS channels, there's still no doubt that Vista will proliferate over time — even if there's a steady stream of people moving back to XP. But there's little feel that Vista's rise is on merit, and Microsoft will be doing itself a disservice if it believes its own hype. Vista's not bad, it's just pointless: an evolutionary dead end that belies its long gestation and frantically hopeful marketing.

We're still a long way from the end of the operating system as an important component in computing, and there are many directions in which Microsoft could usefully innovate. It needs an x86 operating system suitable for mobile platforms, a much lighter-weight Windows that can compete on performance and value for money with Linux on low-power laptops, and a modular Windows that is easy to reconfigure, deploy and manage across enterprises.

All three shapes of Windows could be part of a common product: none could be Vista. Here as elsewhere, entire and important segments of the market are either closed or highly resistant to the OS — and open to its competition.

So happy birthday, Vista. Sorry, but it's not going to be much of a party.