Microsoft's Bill Gates ushered his company's new Vista OS and Office 2007 software suite into Europe on Tuesday morning, near the end of a round-the-world event that bought the software to 70 countries in 19 languages.
Gates, who wore a pin-stripe suit and burgundy tie, was at the U.K. launch event at the British Library, which is working with Microsoft to digitise parts of its vast collection.
He recalled how far the company had come since 1995, the year the 32-bit Windows OS was launched along with the Internet Explorer browser, now one of the company's most-used applications.
Gates was keen to present Vista as a milestone for the company, but also a cornerstone OS for manipulating video and photos, conducting e-commerce transactions and using VoIP functions.
"Today is a big day and is really the start of something different," Gates said.
Gates touched on the revamp of the Microsoft Office productivity suite, saying its new interface "only takes a few hours to learn."
While Microsoft has said that Office 2007's new "ribbon" menu, which replaces the drop-down menus and toolbars, should make it easier to find certain functions, some users have said it is tricky to adapt to.
Those at the London event were shown a number of new Vista-based gadgets, but it was a collaboration with the British Library that was given top billing. Gates and Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, kicked off proceedings by announcing the “digital reunification” of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks. The two notebooks, known as the Codices, are owned by the British Library (Codex Arundel) and Bill Gates (Codex Leicester) respectively, but will soon be accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.
A British Library technology called ‘Turning The Pages 2.0’, which runs on Windows Vista, has made it possible to bring the two parts of da Vinci’s notebook together for the first time since his death in 1519, said Brindley. It forms part of the British Library’s efforts to digitize the 150 million manuscripts and books held in its basements and put them into a format that’s accessible to all.
Brindley said the British Library has been working on the project since 1997, but revealed that digitising each book could take several weeks. However, with the help of Windows Vista, that process can be whittled down to a few hours. The Vista-launch demonstration showed how users will be able to pick up, rotate and zoom in on virtual books onscreen in what Brindley described as a “a first glimpse of a genuinely limitless research environment”.