Microsoft called upon both Leonardo Da Vinci and British pop group The Feeling on Tuesday as it kicked off the launch of its new Vista operating system to consumers in 70 countries.

Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder and chairman, told technology journalists at the British Library in London that Vista would take the digital lifestyle to a new level

“The number of things that are going to be revolutionised…is quite large. The way we buy and sell products, way we think of telephony….the revolution of television. Even education will be changed very dramatically,” Mr Gates said.

Vista, which has taken five years and $6bn to develop, aims to provide computer users with easier ways to manage the growing amount of digital media and better protection from dangers on the internet.

Mr Gates began with the past rather than the future, however, announcing that Vista’s capabilities would be used to put rare manuscripts online, starting with Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous Codex Leicester and Codex Arundel notebooks, giving the public full access to the renaissance thinker’s drawings, mirror writing and scientific theories for the first time.

The Codex Arundel is held by the British Library, while Codex Leicester is owned by Mr Gates, who bought it at auction for $30.8m in 1994.

The British Library has been working for the last six years on its “Turning the pages” project to put rare books online, but progress has been painfully slow. In six years, just 16 books have gone online.

Using Vista’s more powerful graphics capabilities, the project is to be substantially speeded up – the library aims to have another 200 books online by the end of the year, at a fraction of previous costs.

On a more modern note, pop band The Feeling played a free gig on the British Library piazza to celebrate a partnership between their record label Universal Music and Microsoft. Universal is one of several companies including ITN, Betfair, IMG Media, and EasyJet, that have created “gadgets” or mini applications that will sit on the Vista computer desktop, offering customers an instant link to online music, news, betting services, sports coverage and flight bookings.

Lucian Grainge, chairman of Universal Music Group International, said the gadget was a way of “narrowing the gap between record company and consumer – but we suspect it is just a hint of what is to come”.

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