Microsoft's Bill Gates ushered his company's new Vista operating system and Office 2007 software suite into Europe on Tuesday morning, near the end of a round-the-world event that brings the software to 70 countries in 19 languages.

Gates, who wore a pin-stripe suit and burgundy tie, started his presentation about 20 minutes late at the UK launch event held at the British Library, which is working with Microsoft to digitize parts of its vast collection.

He recalled how far the company had come since 1995, the year the 32-bit Windows operating system 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 operating system for manipulating video and photos, conducting e-commerce transactions and using VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) functions.

"Today is a big day and is really the start of something different," Gates said.

Microsoft continued its strong push around the world to complement the Vista launch in New York on Monday. In Paris on Tuesday morning, Microsoft flooded the out-of-town business district at La Défense with Vista-liveried Smart cars and Segways among rush-hour pedestrians.

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.

After Gates' initial presentation, he shared the stage with British Library chief executive Lynne Brindley to discuss the software application Turning the Pages 2.0 from Armadillo Systems, which the British Library uses to scan and compile downloadable renditions of texts in its collection.

Gates allowed an item from his personal collection to be scanned. He owns the Codex Leicester, one of only a few existing notebooks belonging to the artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci, who died in 1519.

The British Library holds the Codex Arundel, another rare collection of his notes. Both have been digitized into realistic-looking renderings that allows users to "turn" the pages of the texts while viewing online. Brindley called it an "electronic reunification" of the texts that will help scholars study them.

Both codexes are on the British Library's Web site.