In all honesty, I can *never* ever ever say that XP was an improvement - it was too girly, too wide open and basically the stupidest thing that M$ could ever have done - unleashing the NT kernel into the public domain for end users to use who had ***NO FRIGGIN CLUE**** on how to run limited user privilege setups.
Sure, if we had continued with 95/98 methods then things would have been just as bad - but introducing the NT kernel with Win 2000 Pro and then keeping it in XP ***and not setting up any sort of security*** made XP (and the world) way too vulnerable to malware. The kernel supported limited access rights and lowered privileges - but the default install didn't even *touch* on saying anything about it at all, and left everything wide open just like in Win 9x series.
Windows 2000 was a good call for users familiar with running in domain settings, but there was limited support for hardware offered with platforms designed for Win 98 (particularly mobile platforms), and that sucked.
Vista was a great improvement to XP - finally, we had an OS that had security checks built in - after 15 years of none whatsoever OOB - and it pissed too many people off. I love Vista because for the first time my OS had vulnerability checks in place OOB and made *good* use of an NT-based kernel.
But, Windows 7 blows any of those transitions away - *so far*.
Don't disappoint, M$ - keep it real. Don't do Windows 7 like you did Longhorn.