The world's largest software maker released what is to be the final test version of its next-generation operating system, quelling fears that the new product may face further delays.

The Redmond Wash.-based company issued the Release Candidate 2 of its Windows Vista operating system this Friday, spurring the final round of testing before the product is available to consumers.

The software is expected to be on shelves in January of 2007, however the firm left the door open for a possibility delay if it encounters any serious problems.

As we stated from the beginning of Windows Vista development, the quality of the product will always be our first priority, Microsoft said in a statement. That said, Microsoft continues to target Windows Vista availability for volume license customers in November 2006 and general availability in January 2007, although the final delivery will be based on quality.