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Monday, October 16, 2006 - Page updated at 06:04 PM


Microsoft may be set to release Vista to manufacturers next week

Seattle Times technology reporter

Microsoft could be ready to release Windows Vista to manufacturing as early as next week, a milestone that would signify the end of a protracted development process.

It could also set the company on a course to launch the operating system at the huge International Consumer Electronics Show, where Chairman Bill Gates is scheduled to deliver the opening keynote Jan. 7.

"9 Days Until Vista RTM!!!" read a scrolling electronic reader board in a building on Microsoft's Redmond campus Monday. If the countdown is correct, it would mean Microsoft plans to release Vista to manufacturing (RTM) on Oct. 25, earlier than analysts expected.

Other than to reiterate that Vista is on track, a Microsoft spokesman had no comment on the reader board message, which was visible from the lobby of Building 9, where part of the Windows Vista team works.

Paul Thurrott, author of the daily online newsletter WinInfo, wrote earlier this month that he had seen "internal documentation" indicating Microsoft expected to reach RTM between Oct. 25 and Nov. 8.

RTM marks the completion of the code-writing and bug-fixing processes for Microsoft. At RTM, Microsoft will hand over the final Vista code to factories where it will be pressed onto disks and installed on the hard drives of new computers.

"It's sort of ripped out of the hands of the developers and handed over to the people who need to do the manufacturing," said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft.

It's not clear how long after RTM the code would be provided to Microsoft's volume-license customers, such as large businesses.

Microsoft intends to launch Vista for these customers in November, but in May it delayed a broader release of Vista for consumers and small businesses until after the holidays. The company's official launch target is January.

Vista, the first new version of Microsoft's flagship operating system since Windows XP was launched Oct. 25, 2001, is coming out more than two years later than Microsoft originally intended.


An Oct. 25 RTM date would give computer manufacturers enough time to get new machines loaded with Vista into store inventories for an early January launch, which could still catch some momentum at the tail end of the holidays, said Joe Wilcox, an analyst with Jupiter Research.

That schedule would put Microsoft "in excellent shape to have a big [Consumer Electronics Show] launch," Wilcox said. "It's a huge event with massive press coverage."

The annual show in Las Vegas draws upwards of 150,000 attendees and dominates industry attention.

Benjamin J. Romano:

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company



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