Da Vinci Twist at British Vista Launch

Microsoft's new operating system is being used to digitally reunite two manuscripts by the Renaissance master, one of which is owned by Bill Gates

Bill Gates, Leonardo da Vinci and even pop darlings The Feeling all made an appearance at the UK launch of Microsoft's long-awaited Vista operating system.

Vista was first made available to business customers back in November but the software behemoth has now officially launched the operating system to consumers, calling the debut its most important since Windows 95.

Speaking at the launch, which was held at the British Library in London, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said: "This is a special occasion, we've worked hard to build a new software platform and we are so excited to see what people will do with it."

Microsoft executives showcased elements of Vista including updated security and improved search technologies, as well as the new 'Ribbon' user interface for Office 2007. For more details on the functionality offered by the revamped Vista, see silicon.com's Cheat Sheet.

Microsoft revealed a number of businesses that will be using Vista's desktop 'Gadget' technology—i.e. desktop mini applications such as a clock, share-ticker and currency converter.

• Betfair's Advanced Technology Group is building a Gadget and a WPF/XAML application that interacts in real time with the betting exchange. This will allow users to place and monitor bets on the site. The application provides an intuitive graphical interface that allows bets to be placed on soccer markets via a drag and drop system.

• easyJet has developed a personalised flight information and booking service. By providing customers with direct access from their desktops, they can save time and effort, it said.

• ITN has a Gadget called ITN Hub that sits on the user's desktop providing the latest home, world, showbiz, sports and money news, and can feature the latest weather for any one of 300 UK locations specified by the Vista user.

The new operating system is being used to digitally reunite two of Leonardo da Vinci's manuscripts—the Codex Arundel and Codex Leicester—for the first time since the dispersal of the manuscripts in the 16th century.

Codex Arundel, one of the British Library's greatest treasures, and Codex Leicester, which is owned by Bill Gates, are compilations of the notes, diagrams and sketches da Vinci made on subjects ranging from mechanics and engineering to optics and the properties of the moon.

Gates said: "His work is amazing. Every one of these notebooks are amazing documents."

Vista will power the latest version of the British Library's 'Turning the Pages' technology, which allows users to browse high resolution online versions of both texts.

It will allow viewers to compare the volumes side-by-side in a 3D workspace, magnify and rotate the pages and even reverse Leonardo's famous 'mirror writing' so that it reads the right way around.