Microsoft: Vista is ready to roll

The company says that it has finished Vista development, paving the way for the operating system's debut. Video: Windows Vista RTM CNET editors' take

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
3 min read
After five years and many twists and turns, Microsoft on Wednesday said that development of Windows Vista is complete.

Windows chief Jim Allchin said Microsoft signed off on the code less than an hour ago. "It's rock solid and we're ready to ship. This is a good day," Allchin said in a conference call.

Allchin said Vista will go on sale to consumers January 30. He said that Microsoft is releasing Vista in five languages. The French, Spanish and Japanese versions were actually signed off on before the English version, Allchin said.

Click here to Play

Video: First Look: Windows Vista RTM
Microsoft has released the update to hardware manufacturers. CNET's Robert Vamosi digs into the new Windows.

The software maker has scheduled a November 30 press conference to announce the new operating system, along with Office 2007. The releases, which mark major updates to Microsoft's two key money-makers, are scheduled to be made available to consumers early next year. Vista is slated to arrive on new PCs and on store shelves in January.

Microsoft's move caps an intense period for the Windows development team, which has raced to stamp out a number of bugs in test releases before declaring Vista code "golden" or final.

The company issued the first near-final release candidate of Vista in September. A second release candidate was made available in October.

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.

Vista's debut has been a long time in the making. Microsoft announced detailed plans for a new Windows release, code-named Longhorn, at an October 2003 developer conference.

Eventually though, that ambitious plan was deemed unworkable, with the Windows team sent back to the drawing board to find more manageable ways to achieve some of the same goals, such as improved searching. Microsoft announced the change in plans in April 2004, saying it shift would allow it to have Vista on store shelves by this year's holiday season.

In March, though, Microsoft said that it would not have Vista ready for new PCs by the holidays. Instead, it would make it available to businesses in November and delay the broad launch until January.

Vista's last mile

With the code now final, computer makers can start their final testing and start building PCs with the new OS, though they are not expected to hit store shelves until Microsoft's formal launch in January.

Microsoft also needs hardware and software makers to finish writing drivers so that things like mice, keyboards, cameras and printers all work smoothly with the new OS.

Allchin said that Nvidia will later on Wednesday launch the first DirectX 10 graphics card. "I've played with it and it just is mindblowing when you couple it with Windows Vista," he said.

While Wednesday's announcement is the culmination of a long process, it likely will be many months if not years before most businesses are running Vista.

Microsoft has ambitious goals for Vista's deployment in businesses. Still, the company predicts that only 20 percent of PCs in large enterprises will be running Vista a year after launch. Only about 10 percent of businesses ran Windows XP, Vista's predecessor, a year after its release, according to research firm IDC.

Allchin said that, with Vista code done, businesses will "now start hard-core deployment testing" and make sure their applications work with the operating system.

"I've talked to some customers that are going to move quickly," he said. Others, he said, will upgrade as they buy new machines.

As for consumers, he said the move to Vista will be "fast and immediate."

"Businesses need to do their testing. They need to be very comfortable," he said. Allchin added that Vista has more tools now for testing application compatibility and other aspects of the operating system, easing transition planning for businesses. He said Microsoft has also tried to make it simpler for businesses once they are ready to install the software. "We've made deployment so much easier."