Remember the date: June 30 2008. That’s when Microsoft plans to sell its last ever Windows XP licences. From that point on it’s Vista or bust for the Redmond gang.

(Well, not bust exactly. Having a few billion lying around does mean you can light all three bars through the winter regardless of how well your latest OS is doing.)

But Microsoft may be hedging its bets. Rumours abound that it’s frantically pulling forward the release of its next consumer OS - snappily titled: Windows 7 - so it can quickly consign Vista to the great Recycle Bin in the sky. And it has form: Windows Me (Mistake Edition) was pitied even by fruit flies, so short was its miserable, lonely life.

Vista is no Me. It does, after all, do its job tolerably well (even if it sucks the life out of your PC to do so). And it looks shiny.

But just as I don’t know anyone who loves Vista, I know no-one who fully loathes it. Vista provides an interface between geek and hardware, and that’s what it’s there to do.

Unfortunately, no-one let Microsoft’s marketers know. As a consequence, we were told to expect Vista to change our sad little lives. And nothing bites harder than promise dashed (sorry Mum). Despite claims of record sales, Windows Vista is on the verge of being labelled a dud. As I write, more than 60,000 people have signed one petition to save XP - and by extension, bin Vista. So what’s their beef?

Most gripes seem to boil down to three issues: promised features are absent, system overheads are too great, and it costs too damn much. Or, to put it another way: Vista’s over-hyped, over-blown and over-priced.

Will Windows 7 fare any better? The portents are decent. After the glacial speed of Vista’s painful birth, Microsoft can’t afford to make us wait too long for its next OS. Windows 7 should entail a few targetted tweaks to Vista with all the kinks ironed out. So it could be that a vote today for XP is a vote for a better ‘Vista’ in the near future.

See also:

Windows Vista review