As you've probably noticed, Microsoft releases Windows 7 this week - and the reviews are unanimous. Best Windows ever! they say. Better than Vista! they add. Before long it'll be on every PC on the planet! they predict.
The thing is, if you go back in time and see what the same experts said about Vista - as Harry McCracken did the other day - you'll find them saying pretty much the same thing. Best Windows ever, the pundits said. Better than Windows XP, they added. Before long it'll be on every PC on the planet, they predicted.
They were wrong. According to Betanews' Joe Wilcox, Windows XP is running on about 80% of PCs. At the time of writing it's on nearly 100% of netbooks, too. Vista on every PC on the planet? It's not even on every PC in PC World.
If you're thinking that the so-called experts - including yours truly, who reviewed Vista when it came out and liked it a lot - are clearly full of it, you might be right. But that doesn't mean they were wrong, either.
Vista is better than Windows XP: it's more secure, it's prettier, it's friendlier. It was the best version of Windows ever released. And there was no reason to assume people wouldn't upgrade. What the reviewers didn't - couldn't - predict is the sheer amount of foot-shooting that plagued Vista from the beginning.
Some of it was Microsoft's fault - like the bug that affected basic operations such as copying files, the overly hefty hardware requirements and the far too confusing range of Vista versions - but most of it wasn't.
If your ancient printer didn't work because the drivers hadn't been updated since 1933, that was the manufacturer's fault, not Microsoft's.
If a firm sold an underpowered pile of crap and told you it'd run Vista like a dream, that was the manufacturer's fault (well, maybe a bit of it was Microsoft's fault, but you know what we mean).
And it's a bit unfair to criticise Microsoft for making an OS that didn't work on netbooks, a category of PC that didn't exist when Vista was released.
But unfair or not, people did criticise Microsoft - again and again and again and again, until the man on the street believed that Vista was as desirable as a six-month submarine trip with Fred "Farty" Finnegan and a kitchen stocked only with Guinness and sprouts.
So are the experts right this time? Will Windows 7 fare better? We think it will.
The "it's just Vista done right" slur isn't a slur to these eyes, because it's largely true: by now Vista is a mature OS with widespread driver support. It's flabby in places, so Microsoft has sorted out its diet and sent it to the gym.
There'll be bugs, of course - anything as big as an operating system is bound to have them - and there'll be the odd hardware incompatibility, but with Windows 7 Microsoft has listened to the criticisms and done something about them.
Best Windows ever? Yep.
Better than Vista? Indeed.
On every PC by 2011? Er… we'll get back to you on that one.
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