And Vista is just Win2K3 with a desktop superstructure, which is Server2K, which is NT4.0... sortof, kinda.
The point is: it's history is a strength, not a weakness. No-one, not even Microsoft, can write an entirely new operating system every few years. I sometimes think that people who expect something entirely new just don't understand how complex an OS is under the covers (not you, scotty777 - this is just a general observation).
Though we today use "operating system" to mean the whole thing we install to run the system and apps, from an architectural perspective there are many layers and subsystems from the Hardware Abstraction Layer, through the kernel, into the Executive and so on up into the user-level subsystems.
To use a motoring analogy, Vista has a rock-solid and powerful engine, outstanding gearbox and drivetrain, decent tyres, and a taught chassis, suspension & steering systems, plus a whole host of smart subsystems like ABS, SC, ASC, ATC, etc. It even has a built-in Sport mode (DirectX). What users see is the body shape, doors, seats, dashboard, instrumentation, steering wheel, gear lever, pedals, and flicker/wiper/light stalks. Vista introduced automatic default seatbelts and owner-recognition doors. And because thousands of hackers are daily trying to pour dirty laced petrol into the tank, or oil laced with iron filings in to the sump, there's an attempt to put more controls and filters over these orifices - you can't just seal the petrol filler and sump and never allow anyone to ever add fuel, oil, water, or accessories. Now people might not like this year's body shape, seats, and such like, but the underlying mechanics is superb.
Of course the motoring analogy can be taken only so far ... the engine and stuff in a car are hardware, whereas the MS systems are entirely soft. The point I'm trying to make is simply that the basic engineering is very sound. And yes, any smarty-pants can say "what's the use of having a great car if it BSDs every 5 minutes". Even on this point there's a fact that I know from first-hand experience both inside and outside Microsoft: about 99% of the BSDs, crashes and stoppages are due to non-Microsoft crapware (bad drivers), badly-written apps, or flaky hardware --- unlike with cars, anyone can write software that directly controls key elements like ignition timing and fuel feed, and if they ignore Microsoft programming guidelines, they can cripple a system in seconds. It's much like putting molasses in the petrol. There are millions and millions of users who run MS operating systems without hassle or breakdown. I'm running Vista x64 with 4GB on fairly decent hardware, and it's rock solid, blindingly fast, and an absolute delight to use. There are plentsch users who will report the same.
I'm looking forward to next year's model, with sleeker body, nicer seats, better instruments, smarter navigation, and stuff. If that's not your preference, get a small sports car or a Ferrari, or a bakkie, or whatever suits your needs. It's really stupid buying a sedan and then complaining that it badly designed because it doesn't have an open bakkie boot with tipper. Get the tool that meets your needs. After all, it's just an operating system, not a life philosophy.
If you are comparing Vista to a car, it would be appropriate to compare it to an American car made by the almost defunct GM.
While it does everything correctly, it is
2. Gas guzzling (high on system resources).
The Japanese make cars that have similar performance but more efficient engines.
I notice that those who praise Vista are generally 64 bit users who have very fast computers. However, the inefficiency of Vista was proven by the fact that MS was forced to extend the life of XP. Why? The Netbook (think cheap Korean 1 litre engine) came along and changed the game, and the overly bloated Vista couldn't compete. Perhaps with sub-prime crisis hitting badly, we will see a surge in Netbook sales at the expense of Vista.
Incidentally, for all people praise Windows (especially XP), I still don't think the architecture is all that good.
My main problem is that Windows performance will degrade over time. After two years you are pretty much forced to reinstall Windows (I reinstall XP at least once a year; I can't speak for Vista, since I don't use it - my computer wouldn't be able to run it). Now to add insult to injury, on later versions, you become forced to phone Microsoft, because of licensing agreements. That really pissed me off.
Security of Windows is of course another issue altogether, and I won't go into it here.
Vista by all accounts was a failure. If you doubt that, look at Vista's sales growth (2% pa) vs the usual over 10%. Also, look at the fact that for the first time since Windows 3.11, MS's market share has fallen below 90%. Considering the advantages that Windows has, this is poor performance. Most of this can be attributed to Vista.