In an open letter to developers, Microsoft Co-President of Platforms andServices Division Jim Allchin predicted that there would be more than 200 million people using Windows Vista within two years of its January 2007 launch. This, he says, is an opportunity that hasn't arisen since Windows 95, which was released over 11 years ago.

"We are very close to being done," Allchin wrote. "Are you ready for Windows Vista? We know the world is! Barring any unforeseen quality issues such as bugs around data corruption, resiliency, or security, we remain on track for business availability of Windows Vista later this year, with our consumer launch in January."

In the letter, Allchin calls on developers to start developing software that is "new, compelling, and cool ... More than 1000 companies are engaged in our early adopter programs, and some of the initial work I've seen has simply blown me away. People will just love these applications--from new \[DirectX 10\] games to cool Sidebar gadgets to new rich visual enterprise applications." For examples of these types of solutions, he points developers to a showcase of Vista applications at the URL below.

   http://www.seewindowsvista.com/

Aside from the message to developers, Mr. Allchin appears to be sending a message to everyone who's following the development of Microsoft's latest OS: Vista is on track and will ship according to the company's publicly divulged schedule. "The time we ship ... is very soon," he concludes. This timeframe has been corroborated by my contacts. I'm told that Microsoft will ship a final external prerelease version of Vista, probably build 5728, sometime this week, and then finalize the product in October. Microsoft still plans to ship volume-licensed versions of Vista to business customers in November and will launch the product to consumers in January.

You can read Jim Allchin's "Windows Vista: Now Is the Time" letter at:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/windowsvista/letter/default.aspx