This article is a fantastic explanation of what happened and how with regards to Microsoft operating systems, web browsers, and other stuff: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/03/17.html
After reading that, I just can’t hate Vista. I certainly don’t like it (I still play 16 year old PC games, darn you!), or Word 2007 for that matter. (Furthermore: thank goodness they didn’t make Visual Studio 2008 like Word 2007 or else I’d be using Bloodshed C++ or something like it.) I can’t hate Vista, because I understand it too much. In fact, I knew most of the content of that article in principle years and years ago. It was obvious back in the mid-90s during the first Browser Battles, and even earlier in the 1980s when Microsoft was still fighting Apple and Commodore and other alternate-OS companies whose names have been lost in the mists of time.
However, as Joel points out on another page, “By itself, an operating system is not that useful. People buy operating systems because of the useful applications that run on it. And therefore the most useful operating system is the one that has the most useful applications.” Windows XP is currently the most useful operating system to me. Vista may as well be Mac OS or Linux for all I care. And I don’t care because I at least have an idea of how to make Ultima Underworld II work on XP (short answer: DOS Box), but I don’t know if Vista will even tolerate all the Win98 games I have.
Actually, maybe what we really need is a WinBox. A Windows emulator for Windows. I say that only half-jokingly. In fact, it may well be inevitable. It might actually be easier for Microsoft to create an OS that doesn’t care about backwards-compatibility before-Vista and just create a quirky virtual OS for XP-era programs and earlier. That way you can have a nice new OS that’s shiny and efficient while still helping out people who have programs from earlier eras.
Just a thought. I won’t even copyright this one: consider it a freebie. 😉