Windows 7 has officially entered beta at a moment in history where some observers are troubled by nagging doubts. What is this latest piece of over-laden software for?
We know what Vista was meant to be for - it was supposed to be better than Windows XP, which was fatally flawed in a number of ways, including security, the efficiency of its file system and its restrictive 32-bit memory design.
And XP was straightforward enough in its turn, smartening up the interface and technology ideas that stretched back in various guises to Windows 95.
Windows 7, by uncomfortable contrast, is starting to look like Microsoft's attempt to patch over Vista, which raises the question of why people should have to pay for software that basically rights wrongs that should never have been wrong in the first place.
It will, Ballmer assured us, boot faster, perform general tasks more quickly, and cut down on the pestering and (to non-techies) baffling UAC alerts. It is, he said, "on track to be the best Windows ever." So, it'll be rather like XP in its handling, an OS launched nearly eight years ago.
And as for the promise that Windows 7 will run on the same hardware as Vista without upgrade, is Microsoft really suggesting that people would ever want to upgrade their PC to run a new operating system with barely any more features that the old one?
Let's cut through the sycophantic cheering and clapping that accompanies CES launches by companies such as Microsoft and Apple.
More accurately, Windows 7 is just Vista tweaked to cut down bloat, and with a few added features (some nice, some ho hum), and the idea that users should pay to upgrade to something they should have had with Vista shows how disconnected from mortal reality the software industry has become.
Let's issue one warning about Windows 7 that any home or business user would be wise to take heed of. Don't listen to what journalists say about it. They were the partners in crime who lined up to (for the most part) praise Vista, the very piece of software so many of them now roundly deride.