Vista was trailed as the second coming of Windows. A year on, it languishes, for the most part unloved, with only the imminent event of an SP1 overhaul to rescue its early promise.

Vista now looks like a clutch of worthy programming ideas gone feral, which consume too much memory and CPU to be a practical upgrade for most businesses. I’m certainly no fan because I see Microsoft as the one company with the resources to have done better. Its effect on my brand new laptop was so bad at times that I did think about checking the Vista CD case to make sure there wasn’t a plague of locusts hiding in there to jump out at the first sniff of my retro-fitting XP.

Interestingly, that’s exactly what Microsoft has recently admitted it is willing to consider companies doing, at least for the time being. But the small population of serious upgraders stampede back to XP, remember the new OS’s one undeniable benefit. Thus far, the monster on the hard drive has proved hard to hack.

It is an impressive fact that vista has gone nearly 12 months in the open without a single major security scare, something XP could barely manage, even post-SP2, for so much as a week. This is partly because of the way it makes some breaks with the lazy security design of XP, and partly because criminals have a much bigger installed base of XP Windows users to target.

Let's not kid ourselves, Vista is not immune, but it has given the world a chance to put the bad times of XP behind it, and consider the future of desktop security more carefully. The important upgrade here is not just that of the users, but of the criminals themselves. If Vista proves too much bother then its effect will be to deflect security issues to other parts of the chain, if it turns out to be another box of hollow chocolates then that too will become apparent with a jolt.

It could go either way. Vista will not fix security for good, but it has bought some time, a previously non-existent dimension for security’s nervous planners.