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.