As you know, I sat down with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to chat about all of his projects this year. Windows 7 was obviously the biggie, so we talked about it and its less beloved predecessor.

But unlike Bill Gates, who seemed like he wanted to admit Vista sucked, Ballmer sticks to his guns, calling it "very popular." He says:

It's much discussed but much used. Hundreds of millions of people are using Windows Vista...[Vista] has improved between service packs, compatibility upgrades that application vendors have done. Actually, the market environment for Vista is not anything like it was when it launched.

He contends that (poor) PC sales are "far more a function of the economy, right now" than any product, and uses that to express his continued caution about being too bullish on the Windows 7 launch.

Try as I might—and you can probably tell I was trying pretty hard—I could not get Ballmer to say or even hint that Vista sucked. It's cool, though. To his point, although Windows 7 smokes it, Vista did get better. We are currently running Vista on a pair of totally stripped, brand-new Acer Timelines, and they're actually doing fine (knock on wood). That had certainly not been the case when I interviewed Bill.

Stay tuned, because tomorrow we plan to run the full uncut interview video for your journalistically voyeuristic pleasure. Video by Mike Short

Steve Ballmer Exclusive Interview Series:
Part 1: Ballmer Talks Natal, Says Blu-ray Add-On for Xbox Coming
Part 2: Ballmer on the Smartphone Race: "It Doesn't Matter What the Critics Say"
Part 3: Ballmer on Zune: Sometimes You Get It Right The Third Time?
Part 4: Ballmer on Those Crazy Ballmer YouTube Videos