Windows 7 is out, says David Pogue in The New York Times, “and if the programmers at Microsoft have any strength left at all, they are high-fiving. Their three-year Windows Vista nightmare is over.” Vista’s poor reputation may have been a bit “overblown,” but the OS was a dud. Windows 7 keeps what’s good about Vista and fills in the weak spots: It’s faster, compatible with more machines, and like Apple’s Snow Leopard, it’s focused on “polish,” not new bling. (Watch Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on the Today show)

The Windows 7 reviews have been “generally positive,” says Ian Scherr in Reuters, but as Microsoft is well aware, “Vista got high marks before its release as well.” The early Vista reviews tended to gloss over “quirks that later became common gripes.” Everyone’s being more cautious this time around.

If disgruntled Vista users like Windows 7, they should thank its “much-maligned” predecessor, says Ina Fried in CNET News. A “humbled” Microsoft and PC makers learned a lot from the Vista flop—and from Apple—notably, that close cooperation between the hardware and software sides of the business are key to creating a “simpler and more elegant” computing experience.

Microsoft and PC makers both have a lot riding on Windows 7 hitting that mark, says David Goldman in CNNMoney. More than 70 percent of PCs are still running 8-year-old Windows XP, and if Microsoft is indeed “on the right road” with Windows 7, it should also “breathe new life” into the sagging PC market.