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Microsoft

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shares gained ground on Wednesday after an analyst said the new Vista operating system appears to be on track to meet its launch date.

The software giant's stock recently added 38 cents, or 1.4%, to $27.75, approaching six-month closing highs.

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Goldman Sachs analyst Rick Sherlund wrote in a client note that the company "has made rapid progress delivering improvements to Vista's performance, reliability, and compatibility."

He is "more confident" that another version of Vista could ship late this week or next, indicating that the company will release the product to manufacturers in November. The official launch to customers, then, would come in late January.

"We have moved up the shipping assumptions in our model and also factored in the impact of the soon to be released free upgrade coupons," wrote Sherlund, who has a buy rating on the stock.

PC vendors could begin handing out free upgrade coupons to Vista this month, he wrote, which could lessen concerns that Vista's January launch will slow demand for PCs during the holiday rush.

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