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A look back - Windows Vista

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Originally posted to Chuck Walbourn's Blog on MSDN,

This is a bit of a nostalgic navel-gazing like my Windows XP post was back in October 2010, so please forgive my indulgence.

This week, Windows Vista has officially reached end-of-life. There’s been a few retrospective press pieces like this one on Ars Technica, so I thought I’d chime in with my own thoughts. I started my tenure at Microsoft the week that Windows XP Service Pack 2 shipped, so I missed much of the early over-promising of “Project Longhorn” as well as the grueling grind of the “security reset” that culminated in the Windows XP SP2 release, so I consider Windows Vista to really be my ‘first Windows release’. There was a lot of game developer education needed for Windows Vista including Direct3D 10, Game Explorer, Parental Controls, User Account Control, and Windows x64–my first public presentation on Windows Vista was back at GDC 2006.

While the RTM of Windows Vista was indeed a rough experience all around, by the time Service Pack 1 shipped things were in pretty good shape technically. This was particularly true with all the catch-up work done by 3rd party drivers that weren’t ready by original ship. The reputational issues lingered, deserved or not, but for gamers on Windows, the Windows Vista release did a lot of good which made Windows 7 and later versions of the OS better.

  • Direct3D was an essential technology for Windows instead of kind of a bolt-on thing only used by games. The WDDM driver model really drove support and stability, and Direct3D 10 set the stage for Direct3D 11 and Direct3D 12 in a big way.
  • Windows Vista made 64-bit (x64) a thing. Windows XP x64 Edition was definitely an 'early-adopter' OS with a lot of quirks and never had much in the way of driver or application support, but Windows Vista made x64 a broad-based consumer scenario. The decision to include both x86 and x64 media at retail was a big part of that, and with gamer machines shipping with 4 GB or more physical RAM it was desperately needed--see this article.
  • Getting games to run as Standard User instead of assuming always-on administrator rights was the right thing for security generally, but was a real slog to make happen. There was also a push to get more game publishers to code sign their binaries which started to get traction with Windows Vista.

So if you love Windows 7 or Windows 10, remember to pour one out for the unloved older sibling that paved the way with a lot of blood, sweat, toil, and tears…