Microsoft has finally named the date it will ship Windows Vista - 23 July 2006.

This is the date the software giant has set to ship the operating system to PC vendors so they can have machines ready for the 2006 Xmas holiday season.

The early release will let vendors "get a jump on the Christmas season", Ethan Allen, a Microsoft beta tester and admin of The Hotfix website. Microsoft - as usual - disputed the dates. Product manager for Windows Vista, Michael Burk, said Microsoft has not provided a time frame for when Windows Vista would be in the hands of OEMs.

There is however a long history of Hotfix being correct with dates and Microsoft eventually backing down from earlier denials.

Microsoft executives have said the OS will be generally available in late November to late December in the US. PC manufacturers would need access to it earlier than that in order to ship it on hardware.

Microsoft also plans to give developers a second beta of Windows Vista on 16 December this year, Allen said.