I just got finished reading an article involving Steve Ballmer and Vista, and I can't help but find it patronizing lol.Windows Vista was a huge success: for Windows 7!
Microsoft did with Vista, something they *should* have done by XP Service pack 2, if not with XP itself. For eons developers have been doing *nasty* things with Windows, and either through compatibility requirements with 9x, or sheare developer incompetence, there has also been a lot of software that, should we say, is little evolved beyond Win32s or the MS-DOS style. Some of the commercial apps I've seen over the years, I am actually shocked will run under XP, let along Vista and 7—despite everyone's gripes, it's one of the things MS gets right.
Most of the more verbose complaints that I've heard about Vista, are not the OSes fault. More often it falls upon the realm of stupid application developers, flaky software, or stupid users. Microsoft has also been about as smart on handling the conversion of users, from a DOS model to a proper NT model, to a more modern NT model (read modern as in post 1960s), as the government is about spending <_<. Most of the software issues have ironed out by brute force, there is just no choice, because Windows NT 6.1 (7) is not that far from NT 6.0 (Vista).
Considering that it had to happen eventually, either by a painstaking multi-generation (of users) process of evolution and education, and that the general brain damaged failure of Vista to win users hearts, is almost the quintessential Microsoft recipe for success: a mixture of bait and switch with the old triple-E.
Windows 7 is not Vista, and it makes sufficient adjustments to make most people happy. After enough time of having to deal with Vista, everything but the stupid users (and bogoware) have largely caught up, plus you have the appeasing impact of Win7, mated to the users already knowing how to 'live' with Vista.
The positive aspects of what Vista has done for 7s success, could not have been more valuable, if Microsoft had planned it before the whole blackcomb/longhorn/vienna thing was even worked out. I wouldn't be surprised if it was planned.