I still remember the day very clearly. It was Monday, October 27, 2003. Several thousand developers--and, let's face it, quite a few garden variety Windows enthusiasts--charged into Hall A at the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC) like teenage girls at a Justin Timberlake concert, volleying for the best seats. I've been to more Bill Gates keynotes than I can count, and this was the first time I ever saw anyone climb over other people in order to secure a better view. (No offense to Mr. Gates, but he's not exactly a dynamic speaker.) It was PDC 2003 (see my review) and everything was right with my world.
The purpose of this melee? Gates and Microsoft were about to unveil Windows Vista--then still known by its codename Longhorn--to the world. And sure enough, almost an hour into a typical Gates snoozeathon, the lights finally dimmed, the rock music kicked in, and we were treated to a musical and video feast for the senses (see my showcase). As I excitedly wrote at the time, "my goodness. [Windows Vista] is going to rock ... The transparent window effects--called glass windows, appropriately enough--are beautiful. The ability to embed video and any other kind of media into documents, apps, and anything else you can think off--even small previews you see when you mouse-over a scrollbar--are just incredible, surpassing anything on any system available today (yes, including Mac OS X Panther). The visuals in [Windows Vista] are just going to blow you away."
Let those words hang in your mind for a bit. Two and a half years later, Microsoft has yet to ship Windows Vista, and it won't actually ship this system in volume until 2007. Since the euphoria of PDC 2003, Microsoft's handling of Windows Vista has been abysmal. Promises have been made and dismissed, again and again. Features have come and gone. Heck, the entire project was literally restarted from scratch after it became obvious that the initial code base was a teetering, technological house of cards. Windows Vista, in other words, has been an utter disaster. And it's not even out yet. What the heck went wrong?