So we should probably start this review with an apology. We were, initially at least, wrong about Windows Vista. At release it wasn't all it was cracked up to be, proving rather too radical a departure and not an especially reliable one, either. Putting aside some of its more esoteric problems, such as the bizarre file copying issues, Vista was largely tainted by the multitude of compatibility and performance issues users encountered in the early days.
Whose fault this was is arguable. Too many manufacturers failed to properly prepare for the new OS, resulting in late, buggy drivers for popular hardware products - anyone with a Creative soundcard will remember this particular heartache rather well. But naturally Microsoft must shoulder most of the burden for what was a poorly handled launch: could manufacturers reasonably argue Microsoft didn't support them well enough?
Still, irritating as its early problems were, Vista isn't quite the pig it's often made out to be. Yes, in some instances it wasn't and still isn't as fast as Windows XP, but there are plenty of reasons (enough to take too long to list) why it is a superior OS. Teething problems solved - and let's not forget Windows XP was far from perfect on release - it's turned out to be a stable, powerful OS. Good enough that abandoning it isn't the automatic decision it might once have been.
Despite this, though, Windows 7 has benefited greatly from Vista's perceived deficiencies. Be they journalists, analysts, industry figures or consumers, people have been falling over each other to proclaim how much better it is than Vista. Even Microsoft's hilarious Windows 7 House Party marketing hasn't dented its stride. This groundswell of positivity is both encouraging and suspicious. Encouraging because it indicates that Microsoft is probably onto a good thing; suspicious because there's plenty of vested interest in Windows 7 being a success.
Putting aside how bad or not Vista really is, depending on what measurement you go by Windows XP still occupies 60 to 70 per cent market share compared to Vista's miserly 18 to 23 per cent. Thus, after the best part of three years, Windows XP still outnumbers Vista by in the region of 3-to-1. Not good. This is a pretty sad state of affairs and one that isn't good for Microsoft or the rest of the PC industry. Windows 7 really, really needs to be a success.
So, go make a cup of tea, coffee, some toast or whatever takes your fancy and, when you're ready, read on to find out whether it is or not.