Prime Minister to welcome Bill Gates to Australia

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is making a visit to Australia later this month and will participate in a joint press conference with the Prime Minister John Howard.

The visit just happens to coincide with an election year in Australia and an "invitation-only" tech briefing will be held prior to the staged media announcement.

According to the invitation, Gates will speak about Microsoft’s technology strategy and the company’s ongoing commitment to customers through research, development, and the role of innovation in the evolution of Microsoft technology and will also launch Microsoft's community assistance program dubbed "Unlimited Potential".

The program aims to provide people with access to computer technology, education and training irrespective of age or circumstances. It has been developed in partnership with the Smith Family, Australian Seniors Computing Clubs, WorkVentures and the Inspire Foundation.

Selected media get to participate in the tech briefing before the press conference but these invites are strictly limited, non-transferable and each participant is allowed only one question, making it a carefully managed and staged event for all concerned.

While it could safely be assumed Gates will take the opportunity to discuss Microsoft's future as a supplier to government when he has the Prime Minister's ear, a company spokesperson said "I cannot talk about his agenda, meetings or appointments".

The spokesperson was also unwilling to confirm whether the subject of Linux is likely to be on the agenda or if Gates will address the issue of open source emerging as a viable alternative to Microsoft in government and the enterprise. She did not know if Gates would be meeting local customers.

Predictably, the spokesperson, was also unwilling to 'speculate' as to whether the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement will be discussed during the visit.

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