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Jim Allchin, co-president of Microsoft’s platforms and services division, has sent an open letter to developers citing the “tremendous opportunity” that Windows Vista gives them, adding that the time is now to get ready for the operating system.

“If you want to ride the wave we’re creating with Windows Vista, the best way is to have your application ready by the time we ship,” Allchin said in the open letter, which appeared Sept. 15 on the Windows Vista Developer Center site. “And that is very soon.”

Indeed, said Allchin, “Barring any unforeseen quality issues such as bugs around data corruption, resiliency or security, we remain on track for business availability of Windows Vista later this year, with our consumer launch in January.”

Allchin said that more than 1,000 companies are involved in Microsoft’s Windows Vista early-adopter programs of some sort. “People will flock to software that is new, compelling and ‘cool,’” Allchin said. “You have got to be ready for this opportunity.”

S. “Soma” Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s developer division, said in a blog post about Allchin’s letter, “Being a software company at heart, the developer audience is superimportant to us at Microsoft.

“Jim describes some of the new technologies available on Windows Vista, highlights the importance of testing your Windows XP applications and provides some pointers to new resources available to developers,” Somasegar said.

Somasegar said that Microsoft has added more than 7,000 new native APIs for Windows developers in Windows Vista. “Examples of some of the exciting new areas where we have exposed new APIs include the new integrated search capability and the new peer-to-peer functionality,” he said.

Meanwhile, one of the primary areas of differentiation is in how an application looks on Windows Vista. The new Windows Presentation Foundation (formerly code-named Avalon) and new “Aero” shell offer opportunities for developers and designers to collaborate on innovative new application experiences, Microsoft officials said.

Allchin called on developers to “make sure your application is compatible” with Vista. He said Microsoft has made significant investments in Vista to ensure backward-compatibility, “but some of the system enhancements, such as User Access Control, changes to the networking stack and the new graphics model, may require code changes on your part.”

To help developers prepare for Vista and ensure compatibility, Microsoft is offering the Application Compatibility Cookbook, which gives developers information on the new capabilities in Windows Vista and how they may affect existing applications, Allchin said.

In addition, Allchin said the Windows Vista site on MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) includes the latest technical material and directs developers to upcoming Microsoft worldwide launch events.

Allchin also said developers should visit the Innovate on Windows Vista portal to get access to tools, resources and Windows Vista logo program information. “I strongly encourage you to apply for the Certified for Windows Vista logo,” Allchin wrote in his open letter.

“Windows Vista is going to give you, developers, new opportunities on a scale you haven’t seen since Windows 95,” he said. Allchin said industry analysts predict that some 200 million people will be using Windows Vista within the first 24 months of its launch.