This was mentioned on Joel Spolsky's latest blog and seemed good enough to get it's own post.
It's hard to put Windows Vista in perspective. On the one hand, the product has been in development for over five years, which means that Vista had one of the longest development cycles in the 20+ year history of Windows. (See my Road to Gold series for an exhaustive breakdown of that time period.)
Paradoxically, Windows Vista is both revolutionary and evolutionary. While it includes modern OS features, such as a new hardware-based graphical user interface (GUI), Vista will also feel like familiar territory, for the most part, to anyone that's already familiar with Windows XP. And Mac advocates can claim, truthfully, that many of Vista's best features appeared first on Mac OS X, sometimes years ago.
More problematic, over the past five years, many of Windows Vista's best features have been jettisoned, and it's unclear whether they'll ever appear in future Windows versions. Other features, like Internet Explorer (IE) 7, the Avalon and WinFX programming interfaces, the RSS platform, and more have been back-ported to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, watering down the uniqueness of the Vista platform.
Does any of this really matter to the typical PC user? Perhaps not. As someone who's been dissecting Windows Vista for several years now, the novelty has frankly worn off. So it would be a disservice for me to base my opinions of this system on my belief that it should have shipped two years ago. After all, to the average PC users out there in audience (i.e. most people), Windows Vista is something new. Under the hood, Vista is, in fact, quite different from its predecessors, despite the surface similarities. Indeed, it is to Microsoft's credit that hundreds of millions of Windows users will be able to upgrade or otherwise move to Windows Vista, install and run almost all of their existing applications, hook up and access almost all of their hardware peripherals, and access all of their critical data files and other documents, all without any understanding at all of the major changes that Microsoft has wrought. Microsoft once described Vista as the Windows platform for the next decade. I'm no longer sure this was hyperbole.