Microsoft declared its long-awaited new Vista operating system finished saying the software was now shifting into an "RTM" phase in which computer programmers and manufacturers tailor their wares to the new operating system.
"It is rock-solid and ready to ship," Microsoft co-president of platforms Jim Allchin said at a press conference after Vista was given final approval by the Redmond, Washington, software giant.
"This is a significant milestone for Microsoft."
"We are giving it out as fast as we can right now," Allchin said.
Vista would be released to "volume customers" before the end of November and would be available worldwide in PCs on January 30, 2007, Allchin said.
"We've made some big claims about Vista and I truly believe we will deliver them," Allchin said.
Vista was more secure from hackers, performed more reliably, was more energy efficient, and worked with more devices and applications than the Windows XP operating system it was replacing, Allchin said.
The changes to the operating system were necessarily evolutionary instead of revolutionary so users wouldn't need to buy new hardware to use it, said analyst Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft.
"It's worth upgrading, but I don't believe everyone is going to run out and buy the new system," Cherry said in an interview with AFP. "If you think it is time for a new computer you should really consider having that machine run Vista."
"And if you are currently running anything older than Windows XP Two, you should upgrade."
Microsoft will release the RTM operating system in five languages and will have it available in 18 languages by the consumer market release early next year. Allchin said Vista eventually would be available in 100 languages.
"There is no question this is the most reliable system we have every shipped," Allchin said. "We've done more testing than on any other product."
Power management software built into Vista reduced energy consumption and provided a "quick on-off experience" that users craved, according to Allchin.
Microsoft said it beefed up security on Vista to thwart attempts to break into computer systems or infect them with malicious software such as viruses or worms.
"This is an escalating situation," Allchin said of protecting computers from online attacks. "The hackers are getting smarter and there is more at stake."
"There is no way for us to say some perfection has been achieved, but knowing what I know about Vista, I am very confident."
Allchin said his young son used Vista on a home computer and that the software had the machine "locked down" complete with controls that let the parents determine which websites the boy could access.
"Honestly, I couldn't say that with Windows XP," Allchin said.
Testing of the operating system included letting an army of outside computer security specialists attack it at will, according to Microsoft. A common lament among Windows users has been vulnerabilities exploited by hackers.
"Customers will not only feel safer when they are running Vista, they will be safer," Allchin said.
The security improvements were the most substantial upgrade from Vista's predecessor, Windows XP, and included encrypting stored files to keep contents secret if computers were lost or stolen, said Cherry.
Vista will run more applications "out of the box" than did Windows and "tens of thousands" of retailers will be selling computers pre-loaded with the new operating system at the consumer debut, according to Microsoft.
The final version of Microsoft's Office 2007 business applications software was to be available to business customers along with Vista by the end of November.
Microsoft has been criticized and its stock bruised for delaying the release of Vista several times to further refine the system.
The delays were believed to have hurt holiday-season PC sales because shoppers would be averse to buying computers with operating systems that were soon to be obsolete.
It has been five years since Microsoft introduced the Windows XP system that Vista will replace. Windows software is used by approximately 90 percent of the world's computers with 70 percent of the machines running on Windows XP.