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Microsoft doesn't want Santa to ignore Vista

Although they'll need to wait for the new Windows, holiday shoppers will find Vista-friendly hardware, software.

Although the next version of Windows won't be ready for consumers this holiday season, Microsoft wants shoppers to know that there will be plenty of hardware and software out there that will work just fine with Vista.

The software maker is launching two programs aimed at making finding such products easier. The company said that more than 250 hardware and software products will sport either the "Certified for Windows Vista" or "Works with Windows Vista" logo. The former indicates products that have gone through independent testing and meet certain performance standards, while the latter are products that must merely be Vista-compatible.

"This certification ensures our customers will have a great experience with these products now, and an even better one when they are using them with Windows Vista," Mike Sievert, corporate vice president of Windows client marketing, said in a statement before his opening keynote speech Thursday at the DigitalLife trade show in New York.

The software maker had hoped to have the operating system ready in time to be inside new PCs this holiday season, but said in March that it would miss that goal.

The company hopes to give people a small taste of Vista later this month as it makes available for download Windows XP versions of Windows Media Player 11 and Internet Explorer 7. Both products have been in testing. The final version of IE 7 is expected in the next two weeks, while Microsoft said that Windows Media Player 11 will be available as a free download Oct. 24.

Microsoft last week issued Release Candidate 2 of Vista in what the company hopes will be the last public test version of the operating system before it is finalized later this year.

The company is still aiming to have Vista in the hands of large businesses by November and on new PCs and in stores by January. Microsoft has said there will be six separate versions of Vista.