Here today, gong tomorrow for 'Sir' Bill Gates

It's a knight to remember, as the Microsoft supremo's unique contribution to our lives is recognised

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is set to receive an honorary knighthood from the Queen, in recognition of his services to global enterprise.

The Foreign Office announced early on Monday that Gates -- the software superstar who puts the Bill into billionaire -- will become a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. This is one of the highest honours that Britain can bestow upon those born outside the UK.

"Microsoft technology has transformed business practices and his [Gates'] company has had a profound impact on the British economy," said the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, in a statement.

According to The Sunday Telegraph, the chancellor, Gordon Brown, recommended that Gates, whose personal fortune is estimated at £22bn, should receive the award.

Gates's success has made him a popular figure with several senior UK politicians, but this hasn't been without its problems. In 2001, the prime minister, Tony Blair, was accused of giving Microsoft free publicity after he visited the company's UK headquarters just before the launch of Office XP.

A date hasn't yet been set for Gates's investiture. Once it takes place, he will have joined a select group of honorary knights including former presidents Bush and Reagan, Steven Spielberg, Colin Powell, General Norman Schwarzkopf and Bob Hope.

However, unless he renounces his American citizenship he won't be able to refer to himself as "Sir Bill Gates" -- the US constitution doesn't tolerate such titles -- but writing KBE after his name will be allowed.

Gates is visiting London this week to appear at conference on "Advancing Enterprise". He is also expected to appear at Monday's "Developing Software for the future Microsoft Platform" event in London's QEII conference centre.