MICROSOFT'S founder and chairman Bill Gates will launch the software giant's long-awaited Windows Vista operating system to home consumers worldwide on a visit to Scotland, it has emerged.
Gates will be in Edinburgh for the fourth Microsoft European government leaders' two-day forum, the first time the event has been staged in the UK.
He will release Vista globally to consumers on January 30 - the first day of the forum at the Scottish Parliament.
The new software package was rolled out to business customers last week. In Scotland more than 200 Microsoft dealers and their clients attended a private showing of the new system on Friday at Edinburgh's Odeon Cinema.
Vista UK marketing manager Paul Stoddart described its release as representing a "step change" in software development, especially in terms of PC security.
Windows runs on nine out of 10 of the world's PCs, and analysts are in general agreement that the new system, combined with Office 2007 and Exchange networking software package, should be a big success.
It replaces the existing XP operating system, and development of Vista and Office has cost an estimated 10bn. It has taken five years to finally get it ready for the market.
The company's Scottish director, Raymond O'Hare, urged corporate Scotland to take full advantage of Gates' visit to further raise the country's profile on the international stage.
"Clearly, by virtue of who he is, the forum at Holyrood, together with various meetings and discussions, will draw worldwide attention. It represents a fantastic opportunity for Scotland plc to be seen throughout the world as it hosts prime ministers, heads of state and other key ministers from throughout Europe."
It is the first time the forum will have been staged within a working parliament, and Microsoft plans a fully interactive and participative event.
O'Hare said: "For example, we will fully utilise the parliament's e-petition system, which is based on our technology, to relay a series of webcasts."
It means that a PC user can sit and watch the entire proceedings wherever they are located, with translation into five different foreign languages - French, Spanish, German, Italian and Russian.
Up to 350 invited delegates from across Europe will attend the Edinburgh forum. The previous three forums have been held in Lisbon, Prague and Rome.