I'm finally a believer.
See, a few months ago, before I went on my Russia trip, I decided to install Windows Vista Beta 2. I was an early Win2K user and was able to use it (at home even) from Beta 1 on. Ditto with XP. Since I was giving a keynote I thought it would be nice for me to show off some of the great new look and feel features of Vista like Aero Glass, etc.
A few days before I left, I pushed a clean install of Vista onto my laptop, a Toshiba M5. Install was rough. For some reasons the hardware laptops is nothing like that on desktops. Even with XP, it's not unusual to have to go dig up drivers for networking adapters, Bluetooth, etc. So for Vista, I had to install a bunch of alpha drivers, and even a pre-release BIOS. Yikes. So I got it all up and running, and it basically worked. Well, I was in for trouble. The whole experience was not good. Besides random things not working it was sloooooooow.. Did I mention it was slow? It seemed to be having issues with my hard driive. Any on-disk work was slow. Unzipping a 5M ZIP file on the desktop could take minutes. Plus the sound card would stop working on a regular basis (at best) or decide to loop with a really annoying "teeeek-teeek-teeek-teeeek" sound.
I tried to drink the Koolaid but it gave me hives. So I went back to XP and Office 2003 (note my experience at the time with Office 2007 was considerably better than Vista, but I just went back on everything).
Last week, the execs start sending "Please Install Vista - You'll Like It!" emails. My guilt got to me - I mean, I do work here, right? Plus some folks said it had improved considerably.
So I took the plunge. More than that I decided to do the real edgy thing and upgrade my XP install (insert scary music here).
I had a heck of a scare during the install. The video stopped working. Kaput. But the hard drive was still spinning so I let it go, and after a while I rebooted it. Twice. Lo-and-behold, it came back and finished the install without trouble. Phew.
Since then, I'm glad to report, I've almost completely forgotten my orginal experience. Some thoughts:
I'm sure there's a ton of other stuff that I don't use and/or haven't discovered yet. In any case, I'm glad to see the product coming around!
I was very skeptical back in the beta 2 days. I had pretty much the same problems you're describing, plus some nasty driver problems. But the worst were the disc performances: minutes to delete a small text file, that was insane.
Now I'm on 57xx and it's oh so smooth.
I still have my home machine that has some weird video card detection issues but that machine is now in the Vista labs for exorcism so I'm confident this will get fixed in the final release.