Microsoft Windows runs on around 95% of all computers on Earth. Huge companies depend on the operating system to get their job done. Skilled labour is trained on this system, because people take it for granted that wherever they go to work, 9:1 chances shout that they'll encounter a Windows machine. Windows has created a reputation of its own. And MS, to uphold their promises, have to maintain that reputation.
MS has always suffered from security problems in almost every one of its applications. Be it Internet Explorer (the biggest security threat of them all) or Windows Media Player. Every application rolled out from their factory comes with security threats. Heck, software yet to be rolled out also are under security threat (remember Monad?). Being such a high expectation release, and one coming out after 5 years, MS is some thick soup. They can't afford to mess this up, and hence they need all the time they can squeeze.
The second biggest problem is the bad habit of compatibility that Microsoft has got us into. We are so used to having everything 'just work' on our machines. Evertying plugged in is recognised, everything installed gets customised. Everything just fits into place. Thats why, Microsoft has to make sure that all programs are backward compatible (softwares running on Win9x will run on Vista too). If they omit this out, production speed will sky rocket, yes, but they will lose out on the one area of accountability that they have. We can always trust Microsoft to roll out OS's which will work with older files. Like the article at the NYT site said, Apple doesn't work towards backward compatibility, hence are able to roll out faster updates. But thats the game they're playing, and hence have a smaller userbase. We are too used to Microsoft here, like it or not.
MS is definitely not the bad guy here at the moment, they are just a victim of their own promises and high ambitions. We can bad mouth them if they fail in those when Vista comes out, but bashing them earlier is only unfair!