Microsoft is looking to get some free advertising for Windows Vista before the OS's official consumer release on January 30. The company is offering exhibitors at January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) free copies of Vista to run on computers they’re using in their booths at the show.

"It certainly makes sense," said Matt Rosoff, an analyst with research firm Directions on Microsoft. "[CES] is the last big public event before the consumer launch. They have to do everything they can to promote it."

Of course, not everyone may want to use Vista, as the applications exhibitors plan to show off in their booths may not be compatible with the new OS. But, as Rosoff said, "They don't have to take it”.

He added that Microsoft PC partners such as Dell and HP are likely to demonstrate Vista in their booths, even if other exhibitors don't take Microsoft up on its offer.

There will be 2,700 exhibitors and 140,000 attendees at the CES show this year, according to the CES website. The show, which is the technology industry's largest conference in the US, runs from January 8 to 11 in Las Vegas.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has keynoted at the CES show for the past eight years, and this year he will continue that tradition.. Though Microsoft has not yet said what Gates will highlight in his keynote, Vista and its launch in late January undoubtedly will be one of his topics.