The imminent real release of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 is reason enough to broach the question.
SP1 is an important milestone for an operating system that bloggers and other critics consistently ridicule. Oh, yeah, the channel and enterprises aren't exactly loving Vista either.
These 10 things are in no particular order of importance.
1. Windows Vista has to be a whole lot better than Windows XP. Microsoft had left XP in the market for a long time. That version of Windows had reached a certain "good enough" threshold, in part because of the stable, supporting ecosystem. Vista would have to be a whole lot better to drive upgrades in established markets. I received assurances that Vista would deliver on the promise, which was later accentuated in the "Wow" marketing. What happened: Vista wasn't better enough.
2. Vista will miss the big PC upgrade cycle. A major enterprise PC refresh cycle started in 2004 and continued through mid-2006. In early 2006, I warned Microsoft executives that Vista would ship too late. What happened: The major upgrade cycle wound down, but computer sales remained strong because of consumer upgrades and a massive shift to portables. So, Vista missed the big hardware refresh cycle but caught another one. However, in part because of #1, many businesses opted for Windows XP instead of Vista on those shiny, new notebooks.
3. Windows Vista Home Basic is too basic. I strongly recommended against Microsoft's releasing this version at any price. Microsoft executives insisted that OEMs wanted a low-cost Vista version for cheap PCs. But Basic offered less than Windows XP Home for about the same price. I called it a hidden price increase. What happened: There is limited demand for Home Basic.
4. Call it Windows Basic. Vista Home Basic was so defeatured, I strongly encouraged Microsoft to remove the Vista name from the product. I warned that Basic would tarnish the broader Vista brand and that its streamlined features put it in a lower category. I bet a Microsoft product manager $100 that Windows Basic would become the default nomenclature. What happened: Other problems affecting every Vista version, such as applications and drivers incompatibilities, overshadowed Basic's weak feature set. Oh yeah, I owe somebody at Microsoft 100 bucks. I don't recall who you are, but don't feel impish about collecting.
5. Vista reminds too much of Windows Me. In late 2006, I had dinner with some Vista user interface designers. By then, I had used Vista betas for nearly 10 months. They heard: There are two Microsoft operating systems that the more I used them the less I liked them—Windows Me and Windows Vista. While not my intention, the comment hugely insulted the UI designers, because of how much Windows Me is regarded, even within Microsoft, as a marketing failure. What happened: Some critics have described Vista as Windows Me II.
6. One Vista version is enough. I opposed Microsoft's Vista SKU strategy from the first presentation and, later, after some tweaking. I explained that Windows isn't toothpaste. Too many versions would confuse customers, creating an unnecessary impediment to Vista upgrades. How could Vista be perceived as better enough if the buying experience was more difficult than XP? I strongly advocated a one-version strategy, but with differentiated OEM pricing depending on features used by the hardware. I reasoned the approach would simplify Windows purchasing while encouraging greater PC differentiation. What happened: The OEM market has largely consolidated around a single version: Vista Home Premium for consumers. It's all Gateway sells, for example. Many enterprises are adopting Vista Enterprise, which is a volume licensing-only option.
7. It has to be multiple SKUs or Windows Experience Index, but not both. WEI would confuse Vista buyers because the ratings would contradict with some versions. For example, Vista Ultimate could conceivably ship on a notebook with WEI of 3.0 (out of a possible 5.9). Customers would ask: If it's so ultimate, why is the rating so slow? I liked the WEI concept more than the SKU strategy and recommended choosing only the ratings scheme. What happened: WEI ratings were low the first year on notebooks, even those with Vista Ultimate.
8. Vista demands too much. From my earliest product briefings, Microsoft executives carted around big honking laptops—luggables—to get enough processing and graphics power to run early Vista builds. I was told Vista would need less power closer to release. Nope. I got my first Vista test system in February 2006. WEI: 2.0, on above-average hardware. What happened: OEMs shipped computers underpowered for Vista, even through holiday 2007. The operating system demands too much from even modestly older hardware.
9. Windows Vista Capable is a bad idea. Why could Microsoft possibly need two Vista logo programs? The connotations around Capable and Ready were either too alike or too confusing. I said that there should be one program for which everything truly was ready. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn't consult me on the logo programs, so I gave my advice after the Capable logo announcement. What happened: A Vista Capable class-action lawsuit revealed embarrassing Microsoft e-mails about Windows Vista decision-making processes—or lack of them.
10. Vista security features increase complexity, decrease usability. Oh, I was a loud critic of UAC (User Account Control) and Internet Explorer warnings. I argued that Microsoft had made Vista much harder to use than Windows XP. The experience would be worse for many users. Going back to #1, Vista had to be a lot better, not perceptually worse. What happened: UAC warnings hurt usability but caused more troubles; new user rights mechanism broke many applications.