A year ago the world was still full of optimism for Windows Vista. Microsoft's ever-so-shiny new OS was still under wraps. Well, it was for most of us, for a year ago today businesses could get their hands on the discs that they probably still haven't deployed. Consumers had to wait for another two months - did you know it took so long to make a plastic box?

According to Microsoft, the best part of 90 million copies of the OS have been sold so far. But Vista has been roundly criticised for poor sales and its minimal impact on the new PC market - not least by retailer PC World. Back in October Sir John Collins, group Chairman of DSG International blamed "disappointing sales of Vista-related products" for a £20 million profit hit in its half-year results.

Many businesses with ongoing Microsoft software contracts will have received Vista. But due to the rather uncertain nature of the operating system many are awaiting the supposed stability of Service Pack 1 before deploying. And that's not due until the spring - it's being tested at the moment we're told. However, Microsoft still regards such business contracts as a contribution to its sales figures.

A year in the spotlight

The OS has attracted criticism from all quarters throughout the whole of the last 12 months. Soon after the launch, analyst Gartner said that there was little significant about Vista which would drive sales. "While Windows Vista includes a number of interesting features, these features just don't have enough 'must-have' appeal with the average home user to spark a significant rush of new PC sales," said Mikako Kitagawa, a principal analyst.

Mind you, we probably shouldn't find that surprising. "With every new version of Windows, there are people who forecast poor sales, and complain that the new operating system lacks compelling reasons to upgrade," reckoned Paul Douglas, editor of our sister publication Windows Vista: The Official Magazine.

"This is nonsense, of course. Windows Vista offers a host of improvements over previous versions of Windows, both visually and under the bonnet, so we're not surprised to see sales ahead of expectations."

But many industry observers remained skeptical. In August Gartner followed up by saying Windows Vista's impact on new PC sales was "minimal" despite the fact PC shipments rose by 12 per cent over the spring and early summer.

XP 'biggest threat'

And earlier this month a leading researcher at Forrester said that Windows XP remained the biggest threat to the mass-take up of Windows Vista. "A big issue [with Vista] is application compatibility," Michael Silver, a Research VP at Gartner, told us. Silver says that reports of poor Vista stability aren't helping.

"At this point Vista is not as stable as XP according to most. [People] are not going to move from a stable system that runs most things to an unstable system that doesn't run everything."

Indeed, it would seem that XP remains why people don't believe they need to upgrade to Vista. XP is a stable and mostly secure OS that does what most people need it to. And that's a problem - especially as Vista contains many small incremental improvements rather than sweeping changes.

Silver added the outlook wasn't all black for Microsoft. "It's now getting to the point where most applications are supported. Microsoft is working on Service Pack 1 and putting out fixes every month."