You can add any Theme to it, so it would look like vista, XP or a completely new Windows you adapted. If you don't want Microsoft Windows on your Laptop other than Linux you can use Ubuntu 8,10 which is very reliable but not very compatible with the File system of Windows.
XP is so compatible nowadays and is being supported by every hardware, since its availability is very spread. You should not use Win 95,98, Me or 2000 since they are just too old and wont be supported after few years.
XP is the best possibility for Laptop Users. Its simple to use, completely ripe, has all kind of drivers, and is supported by Hardware manufacturers. Vista is too insecure, not completely riped out and doesnt always offer drivers for the things you need.
WIndows XP will be the perfect mix for home using and office use. I myself use a Dell Latitude D610 with Win XP SP3 and I'm totally happy with it, it runs perfectly fine, and never crashes. It is one of the best OS that I ever installed...