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Originally published Tuesday, October 17, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Vista may be headed to factories next week

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...

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 in Las Vegas, where Chairman Bill Gates is 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 Vista is to be released 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 it has delayed a broader release of Vista for consumers and small businesses until after the holidays. The company's official launch target is January.

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

An Oct. 25 RTM date would give computer makers time to get new machines loaded with Vista into store inventories for an early January launch, which could still catch some momentum at the 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."

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

Also, Microsoft is to announce financial results Oct. 26 for the first quarter of its 2007 fiscal year. Wilcox noted it would be "sensible" for it to announce RTM before the quarterly conference call, during which financial analysts will expect a more precise launch schedule.

The message in Building 9, spelled out in green lights, alternated with trivia questions about past Windows launches.

The reader board was on a wall among a display of Vista marketing materials. In one corner, old computers running earlier versions of Windows sat atop pedestals. A fifth pedestal was empty.

Printed on the wall above were the words, "time to make history. ... "

Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or bromano@seattletimes.com

McAfee, Symantec

get data on Vista

Microsoft said Monday it has given security vendors Symantec and McAfee some of the information they want to make their products work with Vista.

Microsoft spokesman Tom Brookes said the software interfaces for the Windows Security Center — Vista's new "security dashboard" — were uploaded to a Web site for software developers.

Both security companies have complained Microsoft was withholding key data they needed to develop software compatible with Vista before it is handed over to computer manufacturers.

"We still don't know if we have everything we need or not," Symantec spokesman Cris Paden said. Phone messages left with McAfee weren't immediately returned.

Microsoft said it would talk to both companies to discuss changes they want made to Microsoft's anti-hacking tool, Patchguard.

The Associated Press

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