A couple of days ago, an article was published over at TechWeb, stating that Vista will ship in late January.  Now many of you may think, 'yeah, yeah, put a few months on that', but to that, I would say, just you wait and see.  There has been a whole host of improvements since the Beta 2 was released a few months back - I, for instance, installed a brand new build on my Toshiba Tablet, just the other day, and I am incredibly happy with it.  It's the most reliable and quick build I've had to date, and trust me, I've had a number of builds in the last few months, each getting successively better and more feature rich.  Would I say it's ready for release tomorrow?  No, but can I see it being ready for January?  Definitely.  And Timothy Chen, Chief Executive of Microsoft's Greater China region, agrees.

The article goes on to say: "Chen's use of the word "late" to note the release in January, however, is the first time Microsoft has been specific within the month about the timing of Vista's availability."

Chen also goes on to mention that we have been working closely with OEM hardware partners, but, as this article, also from TechWeb describes, we have been working with Microsoft Connect users, to eliminate bugs in Vista.  By working with testers, this feedback-driven improvement brings us ever closer to the next Beta 2 release, namely Release Candidate 1 (RC1).

But you guys are not the only ones testing Vista.  James, my partner in crime, has a great post talking about how we, as employees of Microsoft, have been actively involved in the testing process.  At the last count, 24000 of us were running Vista, providing feedback at every step of the way using our internal tools.

As James says, RC1 will be a big step towards the final release, and I really do have every faith that all the people who test the product, will see how far it has come since Beta 2.  Nick White, over at the Windows Vista Team Blog, has written a great post about the changes you can expect to see in RC1.  I'm not going to describe them all here, as I've waffled on for long enough now, but I will share this quote from Nick:

"While some of these changes may seem small, when you realize that they will affect hundreds of millions of people -- and in some cases, those people will notice the benefit every time they use the operating system -- well, in all it’s really pretty awesome"

There have been updates to Windows Explorer, Networking, Media Center (One thing to check out: When using an Xbox 360 as a Media Center Extender, the remote experience is now full-fidelity.  It looks and performs exactly like you’re using the PC), User Account Control and Security (Including BitLocker) to name but a few.  Read the whole post here.

One last, final, (I promise!) point to mention, as Nick says, is, please keep sending us feedback.  Your suggestions could end up affecting hundreds of millions of people!