In-depth

The quiet demise of Windows Vista

Microsoft seems to be letting its much-maligned Vista operating system die a quiet death.

The avalanche of positive publicity that Microsoft has been enjoying in relation to its incoming Windows 7 operating system is better, you'd suspect, than the firm could ever have realistically hoped for.

That's even on the bluest of its blue sky days. From the release of the first beta, through to the final build that's going to be rolling out onto the market in the coming weeks, it's given the company some of its most upbeat coverage in years, and Windows 7 pre-orders are said to be significant.

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Yet looking at more detail at said coverage reveals an interesting, but hardly unsurprising, undercurrent. The talk is about whether this will be the moment where Windows XP will finally be usurped as many people's operating system of choice, a reflection of the fact that many businesses have seen little to convince them that investing in Vista would aid them in any meaningful way.

Vista, after all, was the operating system that was designed to wean people away from Windows XP, and it just hasn't happened. A lack of major reasons to upgrade, through to problems with the product itself and, ultimately, no major need for it, has meant that XP has remained the dominant operating system in the market, and even now, Net Applications tracks it at 72.9 per cent share against Vista's 17.9 per cent.

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You wouldn't quite call it a disaster, but you can bet that the projections on the original PowerPoint presentation looked nothing like that.

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Wrong product, wrong time?

Microsoft, despite positive comments to the contrary, was likely to have worked out it had problems long before the assorted commentators, analysts and pundits had their say. But the problem was that Windows is the kind of juggernaut that doesn't turn easily. And it really needed to be able to.

For Microsoft, ultimately, found itself saddled with the bloated Vista at the worst possible time. In the midst of the product's life cycle, the netbook boom happened, and all of a sudden, smaller, tighter and lighter software applications became what the market was demanding. And in spite of trying to end its life for some time, Microsoft found itself in the awkward position of heading back a generation to plug the gap. As such, far from killing Windows XP, Microsoft ended up promoting it all over again, this time as a netbook operating system, while Vista considered to meander in the market.

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Crucially, it also began to show signs of losing the confidence of the industry. Intel even went on the record last year to say that there was "no compelling reason" to upgrade to Vista.

The year before that? Acer went on the offensive, with the lambasted Home Basic edition of the operating system in its sights.

These weren't the words of bloggers venting their spleen. These were the words of crucial partners to Microsoft, and in Acer's case, crucial partners who began to looking with some futility at the moment for an alternative.

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