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Tales In Tech History: RIP Windows Vista

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Windows Vista is finally dead. Here’s our retrospective

Windows Vista doesn’t get a lot of love. For some people, it was the worst operating system Microsoft ever released and it’s death today won’t be mourned by many.

Last month’s Patch Tuesday was the last to include updates for Vista, whose market share was negligible to say the least

Most will have moved on to something newer such as Windows 7 or Windows 10 (probably not Windows 8) so it may have gone unnoticed that was finally killing off the operating system. While Microsoft and other fretted about businesses not ditching Windows XP because they loved it so much, the task of switching off official life support for Visa wasn’t as difficult.

windows vistaUnloved OS?

Windows Vista was released to the world way back in January 2007. Unfortunately, it had a tough act to follow after it succeeded Microsoft’s hugely popular and much loved Windows XP.

Microsoft had worked hard to make Vista (codename Longhorn) a more secure operating system, after Redmond noted industry concerns about security vulnerabilities and susceptibility to malware and viruses of previous Windows incarnations.

But it wasn’t just security improvements that Microsoft delivered with the new OS. Windows Vista came with an updated graphical user interface and visual style (dubbed Aero), along with a new search option called Windows Search, as well as a host of other improvements, including redesigned networking, audio, print and display sub-systems, and new multimedia tools.

Unfortunately upon its release, Vista gained largely negative reviews, despite the security improvements.

Critics were particularly unhappy with the high system requirements of the new OS, along with the inclusion of new DRM technologies to restrict copying of protected material. They were also unhappy at the Aero interface, and the fact that Vista took longer to boot up than previous operating systems.

Windows Vista

Microsoft took those lessons onboard and Windows 7 and all subsequent Microsoft OS releases came with a much smaller system footprint.

Despite the hostile reception upon launch, Vista actually turned out to be a relatively stable operating system over the years, and its high point came in 2009 when it became the second most widely used operating system behind Windows XP.

Indeed it had roughly 400 million users in 2009, but with the release of Windows 7 (October 2009), Windows 8 (October 2012), Windows 8.1 (October 2013), and then Windows 10 in July 2015, its market share soon plummeted.

As of February 2017, Vista’s market share was just 0.78 percent, and although it retains a loyal fan base (including the character Doctor Sheldon Cooper of the TV series ‘The Big Bang Theory’), Microsoft has decided that after ten years, it is time to cease providing security updates for the OS.

Mozilla has also announced this week that Firefox 52 will be the last mainstream release for Windows XP and Vista. Others such as Apple have long since ceased developing their software (i.e iTunes) for the aging platform.

Life After Vista

So what next for the Vista user? Well, Vista users can opt to continue to use an increasingly unsafe operating system, or they can upgrade their PC to a newer Microsoft OS.

However experts are warning that many Vista-era PCs may not have the necessary specs to run a newer Microsoft OS. Users can check out the specs needed to run Windows 10 here, but even still, there is no easy upgrade path. Microsoft’s offer of a free upgrade to Windows 10 expired on 29 July 2016, and didn’t apply to Vista users anyway.

Even worse is that Vista users could potentially have to pay for two operating system upgrades: (one to Windows 7 and then one to Windows 10). And there is no guarantee the convoluted upgrade to Windows 10 would work properly, as the dreaded driver issue could rear its ugly head.

Microsoft (and its OEM partners) of course will no doubt that that Vista users will go out and purchase a brand new PC or laptop running Windows 10.

But for many Vista users running a currently stable operating system on a decent PC, their choice is not as clear cut.

So we say goodbye to Windows Vista, Microsoft’s misunderstood operating system.

Quiz: Test your knowledge of Windows 10.