After several delays, the long awaited update to the Windows operating system (OS), Vista is finally on its way to manufacturers.

The IT giant also confirmed Vista will go on sale 30 January 2007, which many suspected was the case after online retailer Amazon.com posted that date in August in pre-order listings for the OS.

"This is a good day," said Jim Allchin, Microsoft Platform and Services co-president, on a conference call to announce Vista's release to manufacturing. "Vista is rock solid and we're ready to ship."

Now Vista is in the hands of manufacturers, hardware vendors will begin installing it and configuring it on computers that will be sold via retail channels.

Microsoft also plans to have Vista in the hands of business customers by the end of November, and is hosting a launch event in New York on at the end of this month to mark the occasion. The company also will launch Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 at that event.

Allchin said he expects business customers will jointly deploy all three of those products, which will give them "dramatic benefits" in security and reliability.

He cited security as a primary reason he expects both consumers and businesses to upgrade to Vista. Allchin said Microsoft paid closer attention to security in Vista than it ever has in any other Windows OS.

"In my opinion, it's the most secure system that’s available and the most secure system we have shipped," he said.

Vista was originally scheduled to hit retail channels this month in time for the busy holiday shopping season. The coompany is offering coupons through its hardware channel to encourage customers to buy Vista-ready PCs during that time so they can upgrade to Vista when it's available generally.

Business customers report it is not likely they will upgrade to Vista immediately, but will probably wait until a first service pack is available.

Allchin said customers he's spoken with have different schedules for deploying Vista, but he expected businesses to begin testing Vista as soon as it's available on 30 November.