The long wait is finally over. On Wednesday, November 8, 2006, at 11:00 a.m. PST, Microsoft announced that it had released Windows Vista to manufacturing, ending five years of waiting and one of the longest development periods in Windows history. For Microsoft, its partners, and its customers, the lengthy road to Vista concludes with Microsoft shipping the so-called "golden master" version of the product to manufacturing and its closed partners.

"We've really refreshed the user experience for the first time in a while with Windows Vista," Microsoft Lead Product Manager Greg Sullivan told me during a recent briefing. "The performance, fit, and finish are going to surprise people. We've also worked a lot on the overall aesthetics, from the packaging, to the new icons, to the new system sounds."

Microsoft said it won't repeat Vista's lengthy development time. "Integration and innovation are hard to deliver at the same time," Sullivan said. "We will be more regular \[with future Windows version releases\] going forward."

Vista will launch in two separate events--one for businesses and one for consumers--in November 2006 and January 2007, respectively. In this time period, Microsoft will roll out Vista alongside a set of other products, including the Microsoft Office 2007 System, Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0, and Exchange Server 2007. In 2007, Microsoft will also ship a new version of Visual Studio and the long-awaited Longhorn Server product line. "It's the largest launch wave that we've had in the history of the company," said Microsoft Vice President Ron Markezich.

I've been covering Vista extensively for more than five years, and the SuperSite for Windows has evolved into the premier Web site for Vista-related content. Not surprisingly, I have a wealth of Vista release to manufacturing (RTM) content now available, with more coming in the near future, including the following:

* Vista RTM review--The first two parts of my comprehensive eight-part Vista review are now available, and I'll be adding new parts in the coming days.

* Vista RTM screenshot galleries--I've uploaded separate screenshot galleries for all the retail and OEM versions of Vista, including Vista Starter, Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Basic N, Vista Home Premium, Vista Business, Vista Business N, and Vista Ultimate.

* Vista FAQ--I've updated the first-ever Vista FAQ for the RTM version of the product.

* "The Road to Gold: The Long Road to Windows Vista"--An epic, seven-part series chronicling the history of the Vista development process, from mid-2001 to present day.

All this and more is now available on the SuperSite for Windows.
http://www.winsupersite.com