Update: Windows Vista released to manufacturers

Microsoft Co-president Jim Allchin announced Wednesday that Vista had left Redmond

After several delays, the long-awaited update to the Windows client OS, Windows Vista, is expected to be on its way to manufacturers Wednesday.

"This is a good day," said Jim Allchin, co-president of Microsoft's Platform & Services Division, on a call to announce Vista's release to manufacturing (RTM). "Vista is rock solid and we're ready to ship."

Allchin also confirmed that Vista will be available to consumers on Jan. 30, which many suspected was the case after online retailer Amazon.com posted that date in August in pre-order listings for the OS.

The IDG News Service reported several weeks ago that the Vista's release to manufacturers RTM had been pushed  from Oct. 25 to Nov. 8 because a last-minute bug in one of the last builds of Vista had to be repaired.

Once Vista is in the hands of manufacturers, hardware vendors can begin installing it and configuring it on computers that will be sold via retail channels beginning in January 2007, according to Microsoft's current schedule.

Microsoft also plans to have Vista in the hands of business customers by the end of November, and is hosting a launch event in New York on Nov. 30 to mark that occasion. The company also will launch Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 at that event.

Allchin said he expects business customers will jointly deploy all three of those products, which will give them "dramatic benefits" in security and reliability.

In fact, he cited security as a primary reason he expects both consumers and businesses to upgrade to Vista. Allchin said Microsoft paid closer attention to security in Vista than it ever has in any other Windows OS.

"In my opinion, it's the most secure system that’s available and the most secure system we have shipped," he said. This means the number and severity of security updates Microsoft must release every month on Patch Tuesday, the name security researchers have given for when Microsoft releases its monthly security patches, should be reduced, Allchin said.

"That can be proven," he said of his patch prediction. "We will see about that."

If this bodes true it will be good news for IT administrators, as Microsoft has been releasing a significant number of patches over the last several months to fix security holes in its software. In October Microsoft released 10 patches to fix 26 vulnerabilities, a record number of flaws for the vendor.

Vista has been a long time in the making, and was originally scheduled to hit retail channels this month in time for the busy holiday shopping season. Microsoft is offering coupons through its hardware channel to encourage customers to buy Vista-ready PCs during that time so they can upgrade to Vista when it's available generally.

Business customers have said they likely will not upgrade to Vista immediately after its release, but will probably wait until a first service pack for Vista is available.

Allchin said customers he's spoken with have different schedules for deploying Vista, but that he expects businesses to begin testing Vista in their IT systems as soon as it's available to them on Nov. 30.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.