Release Candidate 1 of Windows Vista was signed off at the weekend (which means my guess on Friday way correct - I've been running RC1 since Friday and it's VERY good)..
RC1 will be available on TechNet and MSDN and our connect site for beta testers. It will also be on http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista soon and will be a free download for the first 100,000 users (after that you'll have to pay a small fee).
Inside Microsoft we're all being encouraged to install Vista - Jim Allchin (Mr Windows) sent us all an email announcing this huge milestone (Release Candidates are more or less feature complete).
He also sent this message to you:
It’s official — Windows Vista RC1 is done!
We could not have achieved this milestone without your support. The quantity and quality of feedback and data we received from you has been essential to helping us progress. Thus we wanted you to be the first customers outside of Microsoft to get access to the bits. Next week, a broader set of technical customers will get them via MSDN and TechNet. But you’re the first! We wanted to get it into your hands asap so you can start giving us feedback right away.
You’ll notice a lot of improvements since Beta 2. We’ve made some UI adjustments, added more device drivers, and enhanced performance. We’re not done yet, however — quality will continue to improve. We’ll keep plugging away on application compatibility, as well as fit and finish, until RTM. If you are an ISV, RC1 is the build you should use for certifying your application.
The operating system is in great shape with RC1, but there’s still a lot of testing to do. You’ve come through for us so far, and I’m asking you to once again put the pedal to the metal and send us feedback. Windows Vista is going to touch hundreds of millions of lives all around the world. Thanks for everything you’re doing to help us give them the best experience possible.