The big moment is set. Microsoft has announced the release date of Vista to consumers, which happens to be January 30. So now, all Microsoft has to do is convince users that XP is dead and that Vista is the "new" OS now.
Is Vista next-gen? I would say definitely yes. Although the equivalent of Aero, the new interface of Vista, can be had on Windows XP for free with few downloaded-add ons, I have to say that the entire operating system has had an overhaul. Microsoft has taken many important queus from Apple and the open source world and applied them to Vista. Aero is not entirely dissimilar to Apple's Aqua, although I'm not complaning that Microsoft is a copy-cat. Microsoft has also added nice features such as easier networking, new search features, and many other things.
Vista isn't entirely inviting though; after all, there are many driver problems, such as graphics cards, that haven't been released for Windows Vista. However, given the rate of users switching to Linux from XP (and we all know how many driver problems Linux has), I doubt that all but the most heavy gamers will hold back from upgrading because of unsupported graphics cards.
Another reason is that of course Vista comes preinstalled with all new PCs. That is probably going to be one of the biggest ways Vista is "sold", and was probably also the most popular way of getting Windows XP, too.
Which brings up another point, which may be slightly contradictary to my other points. Windows Vista is mostly added features, cool new interface, etc. compared to XP. The core hasn't changed that much, whereas much of XP's success can be attributed to the fact that most users had never used the NT core (which is far superior to the Win 95/98 core). Microsoft used an in-between OS, Windows 2000, to get everything ready for Windows XP. The interface didn't look anything different than Windows 98, but the core was significantly better. XP then added a cool new interface, and Microsoft had no problems getting people to upgrade to Windows XP.
This aside, I think that Vista will be a success despite the delays. These delays have at least allowed Microsoft to extensive beta-testing, something which is not entirely common for them to do. So since Microsoft has pretty much got their "competitor" Windows XP out of the way, they've got 2 other rivals to beat: Apple and Linux. I'm excited to see how the next-gen OS war goes.