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'Double-booked' Gates to launch Vista in London

Did Outlook let him down? The unexpected U.K. launch just happens to coincide with Gates' trip to a government confab in Scotland.

Microsoft has confirmed that Chairman Bill Gates will visit London at the end of this month for the official launch of its Vista operating system and Office 2007 productivity suite.

The arrival of Windows Vista on January 30 is Microsoft's most important new product release in several years. Gates has conducted the official unveiling of previous operating systems, such as Windows XP and 95, from the U.S., making his presence in the U.K. capital a unique event.

"We are pleased to announce that Microsoft U.K. will be holding a press conference in London on Tuesday, 30 January to launch Windows Vista and 2007 Microsoft Office system," a representative for the British branch of the software maker said. "Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, will be attending this event together with a number of Microsoft partners."

The company wasn't able to provide any other information about the launch location or format. Previous U.K. launches have been chaired by local celebrities such as Jonathan Ross, whose notably robust approach to the companies who hire him may not be considered compatible with Gates' typically earnest approach.

But according to a report on Monday, Gates was not originally planning to visit London at all. The Times reported that the Microsoft chairman had managed to get himself double-booked, as he is also scheduled to address the company's Government Leaders' Forum on January 30 and 31 in Edinburgh, Scotland. This may explain why Gates won't be attending the U.S. launch, and means his attendance at both events will be somewhat curtailed.

Gates won't be in the U.S. when Vista finally goes on sale on January 30, but he will attend launch events in New York before heading to the U.K., Microsoft said.

The date of the Microsoft Government Leaders' Forum was announced in September, six months after the company had admitted that the consumer launch of Vista would slip to January 2007.

Graeme Wearden reported for ZDNet UK from London. CNET's Ina Fried contributed to this report.