Week in review: Vista release on the horizon

After five years of development and many delays, Microsoft says the update to Windows is ready to be released to consumers.

After five years of development and many delays, Microsoft says the update to the Windows operating system is ready for release.

The software giant announced that its Vista operating system will go on sale to consumers January 30. The software maker has scheduled a November 30 press conference to announce the new operating system, along with Office 2007. The releases mark major updates to Microsoft's two key moneymakers.

The release of Vista will mark the first full-fledged update to the desktop operating system since Windows XP in 2001. Among the changes coming with Vista are a new graphics engine and user interface, improved desktop searching and a new media player and Web browser. Also included are "under the hood" improvements in areas like security and manageability, as well as power management.

Microsoft literally began handing over discs to computer makers this week and, of course, gave them electronic access to the different versions of the operating system, which is now ready in five languages.

That gives computer makers, also known as original equipment manufacturers, about 12 weeks until the launch to do their final testing and start building Vista-loaded PCs. That's longer than the time the industry had between the release to manufacturing of Windows XP and its October 2001 launch.

Computer makers like Dell and HP now have to do their final testing and make sure all the drivers are ready for their systems ahead of the January launch.

Many CNET News.com readers were unimpressed by the announcement.

"With so many known bugs that have yet to be addressed and features that were dumped so it could be released 2 years late, it is not finished," wrote one reader to the News.com TalkBack forum.

Microsoft gave CNET News.com behind-the-scenes access to Vista in the days before it was declared "finished." Members of the Windows team gathered inside a windowless conference room on the Microsoft campus to go over the bugs that remain, and to debate which of these can still be fixed. The intense "end game," as these final weeks are known, is a well-worn tradition inside the "shiproom." The small room, with its dated, dark wood conference table has been the war room for every Windows release since Windows 2000.

Ballot boxing
In midterm elections, Democrats seized control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, dramatically changing the outlook for technology-related legislation. On a wealth of topics--including Net neutrality, digital copyright, merger approval, data retention, Internet censorship--a Capitol Hill controlled by Democrats should yield a shift in priorities.

Net neutrality is one of the clearest examples of an issue that has precipitated a partisan rift. In the Senate, all the Republican committee members but one voted against extensive broadband regulations. These regulations are backed by Internet companies such as Google and eBay, but are opposed by telecommunications and hardware providers.

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