Windows Vista turns 4

It was 4 years ago today that Windows Vista was released to manufacturing. Little did we know then that Vista would soon become a scar on Microsoft's record and would be quickly over shadowed by Windows 7 only a couple of years later.  

While many will say that Vista is perfectly usable after SP1 was deployed, for many, the damage was already done.  A clever campaign by Apple quickly soured Vista's image and the rest is history.  But how did Microsoft announce the release of Vista 4 years ago, what did they have to say about the platform?  Microsoft stated:

Release to manufacturing signifies the completion of our development work and the start of the next phase for Windows Vista. Windows Vista is the highest-quality version of Windows that we’ve ever produced. We’ve had more people test more builds than previous development cycles, and the result is that we received more feedback than ever before.

Whatever your thoughts may be on Vista, you cant ignore that it was the building block for Windows 7. And without Vista, we wouldn't have Windows 7, which is Microsoft's fastest selling OS in the company's history. 

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Turion said,

Well you are right, Windows Me and Vista are both fail.

Vista only fails if the user is too big of an idiot to run it properly.

It's good seeing so many people admit Vista was pretty good.

I did NOT like it when I first tried it, but once I got some decent hardware capable of running it, I never looked back. SO much better than Windows XP.

And of course, Windows 7 (which could be called "Vista R2" or "Vista SE"), is just a polished, nicer version of Windows Vista.

Vista introduced a lot but as pointed out compatibility was a bitch, couldnt even install Vista on my laptop, complained about BIOS etc (spoke to bios manufacturer and laptop company), fast forward to Windows 7 betas etc no warnings about bios not being supported etc...

"While many will say that Vista is perfectly usable after SP1 was deployed"

SP1 has less to do with Vista becoming usable than the push to get ATI and NVidia, and some Sound Card MFR drivers up to speed. If you install Vista RTM with later video drivers for example, the reliability and performance is equal to SP1, as there were virtually no performance changes in SP1.

People didn't understand that Vista's WDDM and other driver stack changes was like dealing with a different OS all together. Instead of NVidia and ATI updating the XPDM drivers that they had years to refine, the WDDM required a complete rewrite of the drivers and also using them and the hardware in new ways and then optimizing based on the new concepts.

If you timeline Vista, and look to about June of 07, Microsoft dug in deep and worked with ATI and NVidia to help wrap their heads around the changes. It was then about Sept of 07 that drivers came from both companies that finally were consistently as fast or faster than the optimized XP drivers, and this is also about the time that gamers were able to see some of the benefits of the WDDM and Vista started to gain some credibility, although the poor video performance issues had already tarnished Vista.

The WDDM designed for Vista (also part of the video model used in the XBox 360) was a massive leap not only for the Windows platform, but a generation ahead of what anyone was doing on any OS. (This is also why it was sad that the drivers were so poor, as a very fast console, the XBox 360 was using the new techniques and getting more performance out of the hardware because of them, and in Vista with the NVidia and ATi drivers not being mature, the new WDDM features were initially slowing things down.)

The new WDDM not only allowed the desktop composer, but moved the OS to handle the GPU as OSes had handled CPUs in the past, so that 3D graphics and computing shoved to the GPU was scheduled by Vista and the WDDM instead of the traditional cooperative multi-tasking model (Still used in all other OSes).

This also allowed for bus features to be used via the OS for VRAM sharing and very fast composer to screen drawing, that didn't have the inherent lag that other composer technologies had, like OSX and some of the new XWindow OpenGL composers.

The WDDM was a great design, it was just unfortunate that it took almost a year for NVidia and ATi to get their drivers working well and optimized to what people were used to with the older XP driver model.

Win7 could have been Vista R2, as the differences are not vast, and most of the enhancements in Win7 are built on features introduced in Vista and fine tuned, with the exception of some of the new kernel lock reductions.

PS A side note about the WDDM's DWM and Aero that is worth repeating...
Anyone running Vista or Win7 with the DWM/Aero turned off, you really need to rethink this, and if you hate the glass, just disable the transparency and leave Aero on.

There are a lot of things that even with all the 'pretty' of Aero, that makes it run your applications faster, even your old applications as it is processing some of the GDI+ calls through the 3D GPU, Fonts, Image encoding/decoding, and of course dramatically reduces the redrawing of obscured windows. It also significantly speeds up any native Vector based graphics and their redraws that come from the WPF API and WDDM API sets as the Aero composer is vector based and aware of these drawing operations so that changes don't require a complete re-render of the scene.

I know a lot of people like to turn off Aero as they think it 'slows' down the computer because it adds extra pretty effects, but these effects are minimal and offset in just a few micro seconds by the improved rendering speed of your desktop application. (Because of how it handles the buffers through the composer, it sometimes will even speed up some older games, as they will run faster in a 'window' with Aero on, than Full Screen with Aero off at the same full screen resolution.)

thenetavenger said,

Thanks for the excellent post, great contribution. I too really liked my Vista x64, I think I will always look foundly back on it as my first 64-bit OS, and it was stable (pretty much had 0 crashes in 2 1/2 years on Vista x64) and secure (no malware ever, despite my risky behaviour.) Too bad it has been marred by a concerted propaganda compaign from MS haters, although I admit it had some minor issues before around SP1 was released, whether they were driver or SP related I dunno though. But after SP1 it really shined bright.

I've turned everything of my laptop because I'm on a laptop ¬_¬, don't think the Intel GFX card can run the visuals? Also HDD access seems forever on 5400RPM drives, yes win7 on another netbook I have is absolutely fine. 1GB memory on this to, and windows is clean. Is there anyway to speed up HDD access in Vista like with the page file?

I had Vista from the day it released, and even on a mid-performance laptop, I didn't have any issues or problems with it other than the file transfer speed bug. It was a great OS, and is still going strong on the same laptop which my 12 year old son now uses daily. The same install, 4 years later, which still works perfectly.

I'm sure that for every 1 person that shouts out how bad Vista was for them, there are a hundred people that were more than happy with it. It's human nature that when things work, people aren't so great at shouting praises, and why should they when something does what it's expected to do.

Vista was the stepping stone to Windows 7, which is a fantastic OS, so really you have to be grateful that it existed to smooth the way in the first place.

Windows Vista was necessary for Windows 7 to happen. And I'm glad it did.

What went wrong? A lot.
In the end though, if you have a beefy system running Vista it's pretty damn OKAY imo.

Only wrong thing on Vista was release year. Hardware was not ready for it and beside this small anoyance is Vista more mature and better in many ways than Windows 7.

6205 said,
Only wrong thing on Vista was release year. Hardware was not ready for it and beside this small anoyance is Vista more mature and better in many ways than Windows 7.

More mature , that it is. Windows 7 is more flash. And more annoying because of the flash. Good way to get a migraine. Especially when a popup window with a virus shows up. It's easy to close in Vista, in 7 it pops up behind the window and you have to go select it. By then the malware has already gotten on your computer.

The worst part about Vista was the fact that copying files were dog slow compared to XP. This is evident even in the eyes of the consumer which was the primary target for this consumer rich OS.

But I held on to it, only because I loved Media Center so much. And glass was pretty (but not awesome like Win7's Aero glass now is!)

When MS said that their work on Vista was going to become their ground for OS developments for the next 10 years they weren't kidding. Windows 7 is just one generation above Vista's foundation and look how great it already is. MS has at least 7 more years to further refine this ground, until a new desktop OS paradigm comes to place (or cloud becomes ubiquitous by 2017!)

Am I like the only person who prefers the UI of vista to the UI of windows 7, i run xp, vista and windows 7 on dual boot for XP and 7 on my pc, and my laptop has vista. I hate the Task bar its fuggly and find it very confusing even after using windows 7 from pre rtm in beta form, and I don't use the snap function because ive got Dual monitors.

Okay I know there's the obvious speed and stability improvements but im talking purely on a UI level.

RangerLG said,

It hasn't gone anywhere.

Yep, Vista or 7 not much difference. PR difference yes. Same OS though. Now Windows ME. ewe..

I've installed every leaked build of Longhorn when it was popular and every legit build that was published through my MSDN subscription. I remember when Microsoft "promised" a tech refresh for Longhorn build 4051 but instead had to get it(build 4053) through other channels. Vista was a disappointment in my book because it didn't follow through with all the promises that Longhorn was supposed to have.

I remember when I did a fresh install of Vista it would run really slow on x64 3gb machine, and performance wasn't really fixed until SP1 were I did notice a huge speed increase. But by far the best speed improvement I found was when I installed the first leaked Windows 7 build, and to be honest I haven't looked back sense.

The biggest complaint I have right now is with WinFX. I'm still using C# .net forms for any tool development I do, because there really isn't a nice user interface for developing any 3D user interfaces with WinFX/Silverlight.

Anyway back on topic, the only thing I wish they kept with Windows 7 was the Milestone 2 theme.

Some scar.. hardly noticeable against Windows ME. It's a PR scar. Not a software scar. There's nothing wrong with Vista Sp2 and so far way better than 7. Never have a problem with Vista, 7 on the other hand ruined a drive and seems to be working on ruining my brothers.. Keeps popping the old black screen at the front Chkdsk. Even though it shut down properly. Also crash quite often on another laptop. Freaking nitemare. But Vista biz.. No problem and very good support from windows (not dell)

Windows 7 is basically all flash while Vista wasn't. It's the same OS. Windows 98 vs Windows 98SE or the tweaked Windows 95 for USB support.

Windows Vista was a huge gamble to take but it paid off in the end. Windows 7 is everything that Windows Vista should have been.

I had more problems on my same hardware with Windows 7 than Windows Vista tho... Interesting enough, Windows 7 was not noticable difference on performance wise either. I think it had to do something wrong with current hardware configurations or misconfigurations.

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