Traded as NASDAQ: MSFT, NYSE: MSFT, Dow Jones Industrial Average Component, NASDAQ-100 Component, S&P 500 Component
Industry: Computer software, Consumer electronics, Digital distribution, Computer hardware, Video games, IT consulting, Online advertising, Retail stores, Automotive software
Founded: Albuquerque, New Mexico(April 4, 1975)
Founder(s): Bill Gates, Paul Allen
Headquarters: One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington, United States
Area served: Worldwide
Key people: Steve Ballmer (CEO), Brian Kevin Turner (COO), Bob Herbold (COO), Bill Gates (Chairman), Ray Ozzie (CSA), Craig Mundie (CRSO)
Products: See products listing
Services: See services listing
Revenue: US$ 62.484 billion (2010)
Operating income: US$ 24.098 billion (2010)
Profit: US$ 18.760 billion (2010)
Total assets: US$ 86.113 billion (2010)
Total equity: US$ 46.175 billion (2010)
Employees: 89,000 (2010) Subsidiaries List of acquisitions
Microsoft Corporation is an American public multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services predominantly related to computing through its various product divisions. Established on April 4, 1975 to develop and sell BASIC interpreters for the Altair 8800, Microsoft rose to dominate the home computer operating system market with MS-DOS in the mid-1980s, followed by the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems. Microsoft would also come to dominate the office suite market with Microsoft Office. The company has diversified in recent years into the video game industry with the Xbox and its successor, the Xbox 360 as well as into the consumer electronics and digital services market with Zune, MSN and the Windows Phone OS. The ensuing rise of stock in the company's 1986 initial public offering (IPO) made an estimated four billionaires and 12,000 millionaires from Microsoft employees.
Primarily in the 1990s, critics contend Microsoft used monopolistic business practices and anti-competitive strategies including refusal to deal and tying, put unreasonable restrictions in the use of its software, and used misrepresentative marketing tactics; both the U.S. Department of Justice and European Commission found the company in violation of antitrust laws. Known for its interviewing process with obscure questions, various studies and ratings were generally favorable to Microsoft's diversity within the company as well as its overall environmental impact with the exception of the electronics portion of the business.
Main articles: History of Microsoft and History of Microsoft Windows
Paul Allen and Bill Gates, childhood friends with a passion in computer programming, were seeking to make a successful business utilizing their shared skills. The January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics featured Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems's (MITS) Altair 8800 microcomputer. Allen noticed that they could program a BASIC interpreter for the device; after a call from Gates claiming to have a working interpreter, MITS requested a demonstration. Since they didn't actually have one, Allen worked on a simulator for the Altair while Gates developed the interpreter. Although they developed the interpreter on a simulator and not the actual device, the interpreter worked flawlessly when they demonstrated the interpreter to MITS in Albuquerque, New Mexico in March 1975; MITS agreed to distribute it, marketing it as Altair BASIC. They officially established Microsoft on April 4, 1975, with Gates as the CEO. Allen came up with the original name of "Micro-Soft," as recounted in a 1995 Fortune magazine article. In August 1977 the company formed an agreement with ASCII Magazine in Japan, resulting in its first international office, "ASCII Microsoft". The company moved to a new home in Bellevue, Washington in January 1979.
Microsoft entered the OS business in 1980 with its own version of Unix, called Xenix. However, it was DOS (Disk Operating System) that solidified the company's dominance. After negotiations with Digital Research failed, IBM awarded a contract to Microsoft to provide a version of the CP/M OS, which was set to be used in the upcoming IBM Personal Computer (IBM PC). For this deal, Microsoft purchased a CP/M clone called 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products, branding it as MS-DOS, which IBM rebranded to PC-DOS. Following the release of the IBM PC in August 1981, Microsoft retained ownership of MS-DOS. Since IBM copyrighted the IBM PC BIOS, other companies had to reverse engineer it in order for non-IBM hardware to run as IBM PC compatibles, but no such restriction applied to the operating systems. Due to various factors, such as MS-DOS's available software selection, Microsoft eventually became the leading PC OS vendor. The company expanded into new markets with the release of the Microsoft Mouse in 1983, as well as a publishing division named Microsoft Press. Paul Allen resigned from Microsoft in February after developing Hodgkin's disease.
1984–1994: Windows and Office
While jointly developing a new OS with IBM in 1984, OS/2, Microsoft released Microsoft Windows, a graphical extension for MS-DOS, on November 20. Microsoft moved its headquarters to Redmond on February 26, 1986, and on March 13 the company went public; the ensuing rise in the stock would make an estimated four billionaires and 12,000 millionaires from Microsoft employees. Due to the partnership with IBM, in 1990 the Federal Trade Commission set its eye on Microsoft for possible collusion; it marked the beginning of over a decade of legal clashes with the U.S. Government. Microsoft announced the release of its version of OS/2 to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on April 2, 1987; meanwhile, the company was at work on a 32-bit OS, Microsoft Windows NT, using ideas from OS/2; it shipped on July 21, 1993 with a new modular kernel and the Win32 application programming interface (API), making porting from 16-bit (MS-DOS-based) Windows easier. Once Microsoft informed IBM of NT, the OS/2 partnership deteriorated.
Microsoft introduced its office suite, Microsoft Office, in 1990. The software bundled separate office productivity applications, such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. On May 22 Microsoft launched Windows 3.0 with a streamlined user interface graphics and improved protected mode capability for the Intel 386 processor. Both Office and Windows became dominant in their respective areas. Novell, a Word competitor from 1984–1986, filed a lawsuit years later claiming that Microsoft left part of its APIs undocumented in order to gain a competitive advantage.
On July 27, 1994, the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division filed a Competitive Impact Statement that said, in part: "Beginning in 1988, and continuing until July 15, 1994, Microsoft induced many OEMs to execute anticompetitive "per processor" licenses. Under a per processor license, an OEM pays Microsoft a royalty for each computer it sells containing a particular microprocessor, whether the OEM sells the computer with a Microsoft operating system or a non-Microsoft operating system. In effect, the royalty payment to Microsoft when no Microsoft product is being used acts as a penalty, or tax, on the OEM's use of a competing PC operating system. Since 1988, Microsoft's use of per processor licenses has increased."
1995–2005: Internet and the 32-bit era
Following Bill Gates's internal "Internet Tidal Wave memo" on May 26, 1995 Microsoft began to redefine its offerings and expand its product line into computer networking and the World Wide Web. The company released Windows 95 on August 24, 1995, featuring pre-emptive multitasking, a completely new user interface with a novel start button, and 32-bit compatibility; similar to NT, it provided the Win32 API. Windows 95 came bundled with the online service MSN, and for OEMs Internet Explorer, a web browser. Internet Explorer was not bundled with the retail Windows 95 boxes because the boxes were printed before the team finished the web browser, and instead was included in the Windows 95 Plus! pack. Branching out into new markets in 1996, Microsoft and NBC Universal created a new 24/7 cable news station, MSNBC. Microsoft created Windows CE 1.0, a new OS designed for devices with low memory and other constraints, such as personal digital assistants. In October 1997, the Justice Department filed a motion in the Federal District Court, stating that Microsoft violated an agreement signed in 1994 and asked the court to stop the bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows.
Bill Gates handed over the CEO position on January 13, 2000 to Steve Ballmer, an old college friend of Gates and employee of the company since 1980, creating a new position for himself as Chief Software Architect. Various companies including Microsoft formed the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance in October 1999 to, among other things, increase security and protect intellectual property through identifying changes in hardware and software. Critics decry the alliance as a way to enforce indiscriminate restrictions over how consumers use software, and over how computers behave, a form of digital rights management; for example the scenario where a computer is not only secured for its owner, but also secured against its owner as well. On April 3, 2000, a judgment was handed down in the case of United States v. Microsoft, calling the company an "abusive monopoly"; it settled with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2004. On October 25, 2001 Microsoft released Windows XP, unifying the mainstream and NT lines under the NT codebase. The company released the Xbox later that year, entering the game console market dominated by Sony and Nintendo. In March 2004 the European Union brought antitrust legal action against the company, citing it abused its dominance with the Windows OS, resulting in a judgment of €497 million ($613 million) and to produce new versions of Windows XP without Windows Media Player, Windows XP Home Edition N and Windows XP Professional N.
2006 on: Vista and Cloud computing
Released in January 2007, the next version of Windows, Windows Vista, focused on features, security, and a redesigned user interface dubbed Aero. Microsoft Office 2007, released at the same time, featured a "Ribbon" user interface which was a significant departure from its predecessors. Relatively strong sales of both titles helped to produce a record profit in 2007. The European Union imposed another fine of €899 million ($1.4 billion) for Microsoft's lack of compliance with the March 2004 judgment on February 27, 2008, saying that the company charged rivals unreasonable prices for key information about its workgroup and backoffice servers. Microsoft stated that it was in compliance and that "these fines are about the past issues that have been resolved".
Bill Gates retired from his role as Chief Software Architect on June 27, 2008 while retaining other positions related to the company in addition to being an advisor for the company on key projects. Azure Services Platform, the company's entry into the cloud computing market for Windows, launched on October 27, 2008. On February 12, 2009, Microsoft announced its intent to open a chain of Microsoft-branded retail stores, and on October 22, 2009 the first retail Microsoft Store opened in Scottsdale, Arizona; the same day the first store opened Windows 7 was officially released to the public. Windows 7's focus was on refining Vista with ease of use features and performance enhancements, rather than a large reworking of Windows.
In 2004, Microsoft commissioned research firms to do independent studies comparing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of Windows Server 2003 to Linux; the firms concluded that companies found Windows easier to administrate than Linux, thus those using Windows would administrate faster resulting in lower costs for their company (i.e. lower TCO). This spurred a wave of related studies; a study by the Yankee Group concluded that upgrading from one version of Windows Server to another costs a fraction of the switching costs from Windows Server to Linux, although companies surveyed noted the increased security and reliability of Linux servers and concern about being locked into using Microsoft products. Another study, released by the OSDL, claimed that the Microsoft studies were "simply outdated and one-sided" and their survey concluded that the TCO of Linux was lower due to Linux administrators managing more servers on average and other reasons.
As part of the "Get the Facts" campaign Microsoft highlighted the .NET trading platform that it had developed in partnership with Accenture for the London Stock Exchange, claiming that it provided "five nines" reliability. After suffering extended downtime and unreliability the LSE announced in 2009 that it was planning to drop its Microsoft solution and switch to a Linux based one in 2010.
Microsoft adopted the so-called "Pac-Man Logo", designed by Scott Baker, in 1987. Baker stated "The new logo, in Helvetica italic typeface, has a slash between the o and s to emphasize the "soft" part of the name and convey motion and speed." Dave Norris ran an internal joke campaign to save the old logo, which was green, in all uppercase, and featured a fanciful letter O, nicknamed the blibbet, but it was discarded. Microsoft's logo with the "Your potential. Our passion." tagline below the main corporate name, is based on a slogan Microsoft used in 2008. In 2002, the company started using the logo in the United States and eventually started a TV campaign with the slogan, changed from the previous tagline of "Where do you want to go today?". During the private MGX (Microsoft Global Exchange) conference in 2010, Microsoft unveiled the company's next tagline, "Be What's Next.", as well as a new logo scheduled for use sometime in the future.