As Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates has been a regular visitor to London, but Wednesday be the last time he appears in the UK as a representative of the company, Microsoft has confirmed.
Gates plans to retire from full-time employment at Microsoft at the end of June, to take on the running of his philanphropic foundation. His last appearance in this country on Wednesday will be as guest of the UK's business establishment — the Institute of Directors (IoD).
According to Microsoft, Gates will be addressing an audience of senior decision-makers on the subject of hosted software, and customer relationship management (CRM) in particular. Gates will argue that "hosted software will be a big trend for the future", the company said.
Microsoft is keen to position itself as being pro-hosted software, but has traditionally been limited in making any bold moves through fear of damaging its existing software business. But experts agree that the success of hosted CRM players such as Salesforce.com, RightNow Technologies and open-source hosted companies such as SugarCRM means the tech giant will eventually be forced to do more than talk the talk.
Immediately after Gates's speech on Wednesday, the company will hold the "official" launch of Microsoft CRM 4.0, although the product was announced on 2 January.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was founded in 2000 and supports projects to improve health, reduce poverty and increase access to technology.