It hardly seems possible, but it was a little over a year ago that Microsoft foisted Windows Vista onto a wary world. But instead of the "Wow Starts Now", January 30, 2007 was more like the "When Started Then".

When will drivers be available for legacy hardware? When will compatible software show up? When is Microsoft planning to release SP1 to fix all the things it got wrong? When will PC makers stop selling XP machines, and can I buy some now before it's too late?

See also:

Windows Vista SP1 finalised, launches today

XP marks the spot for a better Vista

Windows Vista: the definitive review

Not surprisingly, Redmond is taking the occasion to mark Vista's success. For example, Microsoft gives itself high marks for Vista security. Of course, it's grading on a curve compared to XP's first year.

"The highest quality, most secure Windows operating system ever" (per Sir Ballmer of Redmond) had only 30 major security flaws patched (with another 36 waiting to be fixed), or about half as many as XP did in its first year. That's a little like saying I may be fat, but that other guy is fatter, so that makes me thin.

(Now pass the cream puffs.)

Over at the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Todd Bishop quotes Neil Charney, a Windows general manager spouting the usual Microsoft line:

We're really pleased at what we're seeing... We know that it's an ongoing effort to make sure that our customers are happy and satisfied and enjoying that experience.

What Charney probably meant was that users are enjoying an eXPerience. If Vista did anything in the last year, it was to boost XP's sagging reputation.

Microsoft reports that it sold 100 million Vista licenses in 2007, which means that roughly 4 out of 10 new machines shipped with Vista on them. By comparison, nearly 70 percent of PCs shipped with XP in its first year.

According to NetApplications, about 11 percent of installed machines use Vista, compared to 75 percent running XP. So far, some 70,000 Windows sufferers have signed InfoWorld's Save XP petition to keep support for the aging OS going after its scheduled June 30 pull date.

Microsoft has finally figured out what it takes to earn respect for one of its operating systems: release a new one that sucks harder than the last.

Perhaps the real birthday we should celebrate is October 25, 2001 - the date of XP's initial release.

By the time Windows 7 appears (in 2009, 2010, or 2011, depending on which source you believe), it's possible we may be offering a "Save Vista" petition. But at this point it seems rather doubtful.

Happy birthday, Vista. Try not to set yourself on fire as you blow out the candle.