Honestly, Microsoft should be ashamed of the lack of forthought put into it and how little it gave users.
It gave users quite a bit.
- Increased security far above XP's security. Both under the hood, invisible changes (better stack protection, ASLR), as well as the very visible (to the point of annoying) UAC.
- Graphics and sound libraries were rewritten. Vista uses hardware acceleration on the desktop, which should improve the performance of apps that draw stuff on the screen.
- Better caching via SuperFetch.
- Rewritten printing.
- Rewritten networking.
- Better use of multiple cores.
- Better memory management. (although this was offset by having more bloat to manage . . .)
- A rewritten driver model.
- Actually, just go to the Wikipedia, a lot of stuff changed.
Truth be known, there are lot of internal changes not normally visible to end users, but honestly required for Microsoft to move forward. Just because many of the changes aren't so obvious doesn't mean nothing changed.
And I certainly don't think Microsoft had any "lack of forethought." The problem is that they needed to make a lot of changes, and lots of changes == lots of bugs. I don't think they really could have done better, considering the circumstances.
The biggest problems with Vista boiled down to the following:
- UAC was new to users who never used Linux or Macs. And it was very much annoying in its first implementation. Windows 7 improves on this, making it far less annoying.
- More features = more bloat and more bugs. As usual, Microsoft tended to work under the assumption that computers would get better and this would go away anyways. This assumption would actually be reversed in Windows 7 and Windows 8.
- Copying files was broken. Severely broken. They had rewritten it, but their intentions were far better than the end result. This was eventually fixed in SP1.
- Rewritten driver model == broken compatibility with many devices. There's not a whole lot Microsoft could do about this, as manufacturers needed to supply new drivers. This problem would eventually resolve itself over time, and I doubt Microsoft is going to break drivers again any time soon.
Here's why I don't think they could have done much better, even if they delayed the (already very much delayed) release of Vista even further:
- UAC was going to upset people, period. There's really no way around it. Windows users were not used to Unix-like security dialogs. I don't think there's a whole lot Microsoft could have done about this.
- Microsoft's mentality about more features and more bloat was probably engrained into their corporate culture. I'm willing to bet that it took changing out some of the "old guard" to make them reverse this trend in Windows 7/8.
- Copying files wasn't really tested in a way that reflected real world usage. This is something that hopefully Microsoft has learned from.
- Nothing can really be done about breaking devices with a new driver model. All they can really do is to plead with manufacturers for better drivers.
Vista was needed, to be honest. People may hate it, but it was needed for Microsoft to move forward. Windows 7 and the upcoming Windows 8 build upon the changes that Vista bought.
Yeah, I ran on Windows Vista, although since then I've switched to Windows 7, which fixes all of Vista's issues and is IMO is really the best OS Microsoft has made thus far .