Microsoft Corporation (/ˈmaɪkrəˌsɒft/, abbreviated as MS) is an American multinational technology company headquartered in Redmond, Washington. It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports and sells computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and services. Its best known software products are the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems, the Microsoft Office suite, and the Internet Explorer and Edge web browsers. Its flagship hardware products are the Xbox video game consoles and the Microsoft Surface tablet lineup. As of 2016, it is the world's largest software maker by revenue, and one of the world's most valuable companies.
Microsoft was founded by Paul Allen and Bill Gates on April 4, 1975, to develop and sell BASIC interpreters for the Altair 8800. It rose to dominate the personal computer operating system market with MS-DOS in the mid-1980s, followed by Microsoft Windows. The company's 1986 initial public offering (IPO), and subsequent rise in its share price, created three billionaires and an estimated 12,000 millionaires among Microsoft employees. Since the 1990s, it has increasingly diversified from the operating system market and has made a number of corporate acquisitions. In May 2011, Microsoft acquired Skype Technologies for $8.5 billion, and in December 2016 bought LinkedIn for $26.2 billion.
As of 2015, Microsoft is market-dominant in the IBM PC-compatible operating system market and the office software suite market, although it has lost the majority of the overall operating system market to Android. The company also produces a wide range of other software for desktops and servers, and is active in areas including Internet search (with Bing), the video game industry (with the Xbox series of consoles, and games such as Minecraft), the digital services market (through MSN), and mobile phones (primarily through the Windows Phone OS). In June 2012, Microsoft entered the personal computer production market for the first time, with the launch of the Microsoft Surface, a line of tablet computers. Forming Microsoft Mobile through the acquisition of Nokia's devices and services division, the company re-entered the smartphone hardware market. Its previous attempt, Microsoft Kin, which resulted from their acquisition of Danger Inc., had failed commercially.
1972–1985: The founding of Microsoft
Paul Allen and Bill Gates pose for the camera on October 19, 1981, in a sea of PCs after signing a pivotal contract with IBM.
Childhood friends Paul Allen and Bill Gates sought to make a successful business utilizing their shared skills in computer programming. In 1972 they founded their first company, named Traf-O-Data, which sold a rudimentary computer to track and analyze automobile traffic data. While Gates enrolled at Harvard, Allen pursued a degree in computer science at Washington State University, though he later dropped out of school to work at Honeywell. The January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics featured Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems's (MITS) Altair 8800 microcomputer, which inspired Allen to suggest 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 yet 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, it worked flawlessly when they (in March 1975) demonstrated the interpreter to MITS in Albuquerque, New Mexico. MITS agreed to distribute it, marketing it as Altair BASIC.:108, 112–114 Gates and Allen officially established Microsoft on April 4, 1975, with Gates as the CEO. The original name of "Micro-Soft" was suggested by Allen. In August 1977 the company formed an agreement with ASCII Magazine in Japan, resulting in its first international office, "ASCII Microsoft". Microsoft 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 MS-DOS that solidified the company's dominance. After negotiations with Digital Research failed, IBM awarded a contract to Microsoft in November 1980 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, which it branded as MS-DOS, though IBM rebranded it to PC DOS. Following the release of the IBM PC in August 1981, Microsoft retained ownership of MS-DOS. Since IBM had 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 operating systems vendor. The company expanded into new markets with the release of the Microsoft Mouse in 1983, as well as with a publishing division named Microsoft Press Allen resigned from Microsoft in 1983 after developing Hodgkin's disease.
1985–1994: Windows and Office
While jointly developing a new OS with IBM in 1984 (that is, OS/2), Microsoft released Microsoft Windows, a graphical extension for MS-DOS, on November 20, 1985.:242–243, 246 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 released its version of OS/2 to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on April 2, 1987;:243–244 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.
In 1990, Microsoft introduced its office suite, Microsoft Office. The software bundled separate office productivity applications, such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel.:301 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 anti-competitive "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."
1995–2007: Foray into the Web, Windows 95, Windows XP, and Xbox
Microsoft released the first installment in the Xbox series of consoles in 2001. The Xbox, graphically powerful compared to its rivals, featured a standard PC's 733 MHz Intel Pentium III processor.
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.20 Windows 95 came bundled with the online service MSN (which was at first intended to be a competitor to the Internet), 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 General Electric's NBC unit created a new 24/7 cable news channel, 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.:323–324
In 1996, Microsoft released Windows CE, a version of the operating system meant for personal digital assistants and other tiny computers.
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.:111, 228 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.
2007–2011: Microsoft Azure, Windows 7, and Microsoft Stores
CEO Steve Ballmer at the MIX event in 2008. In an interview about his management style in 2005, he mentioned that his first priority was to get the people he delegates to in order. Ballmer also emphasized the need to continue pursuing new technologies even if initial attempts fail, citing the original attempts with Windows as an example.
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". 2007 also saw the creation of a multi-core unit at Microsoft, as they followed in the steps of server companies such as Sun and IBM.
Gates retired from his role as Chief Software Architect on June 27, 2008, a decision announced in June 2006, 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.
As the smartphone industry boomed beginning in 2007, Microsoft struggled to keep up with its rivals Apple and Google in providing a modern smartphone operating system. As a result, in 2010, Microsoft revamped their aging flagship mobile operating system, Windows Mobile, replacing it with the new Windows Phone OS; along with a new strategy in the smartphone industry that had Microsoft working more closely with smartphone manufacturers, such as Nokia, and to provide a consistent user experience across all smartphones using Microsoft's Windows Phone OS. It used a new user interface design language, codenamed "Metro", which prominently used simple shapes, typography and iconography, and the concept of minimalism. Microsoft is a founding member of the Open Networking Foundation started on March 23, 2011. Other founding companies include Google, HP Networking, Yahoo, Verizon, Deutsche Telekom and 17 other companies. The nonprofit organization is focused on providing support for a new cloud computing initiative called Software-Defined Networking. The initiative is meant to speed innovation through simple software changes in telecommunications networks, wireless networks, data centers and other networking areas.
2011–2014: Windows 8, Outlook.com, and Surface devices
Following the release of Windows Phone, Microsoft underwent a gradual rebranding of its product range throughout 2011 and 2012—the corporation's logos, products, services and websites adopted the principles and concepts of the Metro design language. Microsoft previewed Windows 8, an operating system designed to power both personal computers and tablet computers, in Taipei in June 2011. A developer preview was released on September 13, and was replaced by a consumer preview on February 29, 2012. On May 31, 2012, the preview version was released. On June 18, 2012, Microsoft unveiled the Surface, the first computer in the company's history to have its hardware made by Microsoft. On June 25, Microsoft paid US$1.2 billion to buy the social network Yammer. On July 31, 2012, Microsoft launched the Outlook.com webmail service to compete with Gmail. On September 4, 2012, Microsoft released Windows Server 2012.
In July 2012, Microsoft sold its 50% stake in MSNBC.com, which it had run as a joint venture with NBC since 1996. On October 1, Microsoft announced its intention to launch a news operation, part of a new-look MSN, at the time of the Windows 8 launch that was later in the month. On October 26, 2012, Microsoft launched Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface. Three days later, Windows Phone 8 was launched. To cope with the potential for an increase in demand for products and services, Microsoft opened a number of "holiday stores" across the U.S. to complement the increasing number of "bricks-and-mortar" Microsoft Stores that opened in 2012. On March 29, 2013, Microsoft launched a Patent Tracker.
The Kinect, a motion-sensing input device made by Microsoft and designed as a video game controller, which was first introduced in November 2010, was upgraded for the 2013 release of the eighth-generation Xbox One video game console. Kinect's capabilities were revealed in May 2013. The new Kinect uses an ultra-wide 1080p camera, it can function in the dark due to an infrared sensor, it employs higher-end processing power and new software, it can distinguish between fine movements (such as a thumb movements), and the device can determine a user's heart rate by looking at his/her face. Microsoft filed a patent application in 2011 that suggests that the corporation may use the Kinect camera system to monitor the behavior of television viewers as part of a plan to make the viewing experience more interactive. On July 19, 2013, Microsoft stocks suffered its biggest one-day percentage sell-off since the year 2000 after its fourth-quarter report raised concerns among the investors on the poor showings of both Windows 8 and the Surface tablet; with more than 11 percentage points declining Microsoft suffered a loss of more than US$32 billion. For the 2010 fiscal year, Microsoft had five product divisions: Windows Division, Server and Tools, Online Services Division, Microsoft Business Division and Entertainment and Devices Division.
On September 3, 2013, Microsoft agreed to buy Nokia's mobile unit for $7 billion. Also in 2013, Amy Hood became the CFO of Microsoft. The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) was launched in October 2013 and Microsoft was part of the coalition of public and private organizations that also included Facebook, Intel and Google. Led by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, the A4AI seeks to make Internet access more affordable so that access is broadened in the developing world, where only 31% of people are online. Google will help to decrease Internet access prices so that they fall below the UN Broadband Commission's worldwide target of 5% of monthly income. In line with the maturing PC business, in July 2013, Microsoft announced that it would reorganize the business into four new business divisions by function: Operating System, Apps, Cloud and Devices. All previous divisions will be diluted into new divisions without any workforce cut.
2014–present: Windows 10 and HoloLens
On February 4, 2014, Steve Ballmer stepped down as CEO of Microsoft and was succeeded by Satya Nadella, who previously led Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise division. On the same day, John W. Thompson took on the role of chairman, with Bill Gates stepping down from the position, while continuing to participate as a technology advisor.
On April 25, 2014, Microsoft acquired Nokia Devices and Services for $7.2 billion. The new subsidiary was renamed Microsoft Mobile Oy. In May 2016, the company announced it will lay off 1,850 workers, taking an impairment and restructuring charge of $950 million. During the previous summer of 2015 the company wrote down $7.6 billion related to its mobile-phone business and fired 7,800 employees from those operations.
On September 15, 2014, Microsoft acquired the video game development company Mojang, best known for its wildly popular flagship game Minecraft, for $2.5 billion.
On June 8, 2017, Microsoft acquired Hexadite, an Israeli security firm, for $100 million.
On January 21, 2015, Microsoft announced the release of their first Interactive whiteboard, Microsoft Surface Hub (part of the Surface family). On July 29, 2015, Microsoft released the next version of the Windows operating system, Windows 10. Its server sibling, Windows Server 2016, was released in September 2016.
In Q1 2015, Microsoft was the third largest maker of mobile phones selling 33 million units (7.2% of all), while a large majority (at least 75%) of them do not run any version of Windows Phone – those other phones are not categorized as smartphones by Gartner – in the same time frame 8 million Windows smartphones (2.5% of all smartphones) were made by all manufacturers (but mostly by Microsoft). Microsoft's share of the U.S. smartphone market in January 2016 was 2.7%.
On March 1, 2016, Microsoft announced the merger of its PC and Xbox divisions, with Phil Spencer announcing that Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps would be the focus for Microsoft's gaming in the future.
On January 24, 2017, Microsoft showcased Intune for Education at the BETT 2017 education technology conference in London. Intune for Education is a new cloud-based application and device management service for the education sector. Microsoft will launch a preview of Intune for Education "in the coming weeks", with general availability scheduled for spring 2017, priced at $30 per device, or through volume licensing agreements.
In June 2016, Microsoft announced a project named, Microsoft Azure Information Protection. It aims to help enterprises protect their data as it moves between servers and devices.
In November 2016, Microsoft has joined the Linux Foundation as a Platinum member during Microsoft’s Connect(); developer event in New York. The cost of each Platinum membership is US$500,000 per year.