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Microsoft Corporation, is an American multinational computer technology corporation with global annual revenue of US$44.28 billion and 76,000 employees in 102 countries. It develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of software products for computing devices.[1][2][3] Headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA, its best selling products are the Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software. The company's name is sometimes abbreviated as MS or MSFT.

These products have all achieved near-ubiquity in the desktop computer market. One commentator notes that Microsoft's original mission was "a computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software"—it is a goal near fulfillment.[4] Microsoft possesses footholds in other markets, with assets such as the MSNBC cable television network, the MSN Internet portal, and the Microsoft Encarta multimedia encyclopedia. The company also markets both computer hardware products such as the Microsoft mouse as well as home entertainment products such as the Xbox, Xbox 360, Zune, and MSN TV.[1]

Originally founded 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. The company released an initial public offering (IPO) in the stock market, which, due to the ensuing rise of the stock price, has made four billionaires and an estimated 12,000 millionaires from Microsoft employees.[5][6][7] Throughout its history the company has been the target of criticism, including monopolistic business practices—the U.S. Justice Department, among others, has sued Microsoft for antitrust violations and software bundling.[8] Known for what is generally described as a developer-centric business culture, Microsoft has historically given customer support over Usenet newsgroups and the World Wide Web, and awards Microsoft MVP status to volunteers who are deemed helpful in assisting the company's customers.[9][7]


1975–1985: Founding[edit]

Following the launch of the Altair 8800, Bill Gates called the creators of the new microcomputer, Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems, offering to demonstrate an implementation of the BASIC programming language for the system. After the demonstration, MITS agreed to distribute Altair BASIC.[10] Gates left Harvard University, moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico where MITS was located, and founded Microsoft there. The company's first international office was founded on November 1, 1978, in Japan, entitled "ASCII Microsoft" (now called "Microsoft Japan").[10] On January 1, 1979, the company moved from Albuquerque to a new home in Bellevue, Washington.[10] Steve Ballmer joined the company on June 11, 1980, and would later succeed Bill Gates as CEO.[10]

DOS (Disk Operating System) was the operating system that brought the company its real success. On August 12, 1981, after negotiations with Digital Research failed, IBM awarded a contract to Microsoft to provide a version of the CP/M operating system, which was set to be used in the upcoming IBM Personal Computer (PC). For this deal, Microsoft purchased a CP/M clone called QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) from Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer Products, which IBM renamed to PC-DOS. Later, the market saw a flood of IBM PC clones after Columbia Data Products successfully cloned the IBM BIOS, and through aggressive marketing of their own QDOS derivative, MS-DOS, to manufacturers of IBM-PC clones Microsoft rose from a small player to one of the major software vendors in the home computer industry.[11] The company expanded into new markets with the release of the Microsoft Mouse in 1983, as well as a publishing division named Microsoft Press.[10]

1985–1995: OS/2 and Windows[edit]

On November 20, 1985, Microsoft released its first retail version of Microsoft Windows, originally a graphical extension for its MS-DOS operating system.[10] In August, Microsoft and IBM partnered in the development of a different operating system called OS/2.[12] Around one month later, on March 13, the company went public with an IPO, priced at US$28.00 by the end of the trading day. In 1987, Microsoft eventually released their first version of OS/2 to OEMs.[13]

The sign at a main entrance to the Microsoft corporate campus. The Redmond Microsoft campus today includes more than 8 million square feet (approx. 750,000 m²) and over 30,000 employees.[14]

In 1989, Microsoft introduced its most successful office product, Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office was a bundle of separate office productivity applications, such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel.[10] On May 22, 1990 Microsoft launched Windows 3.0.[15] The new version of Microsoft's operating system boasted such new features as streamlined user interface graphics and improved protected mode capability for the Intel 386 processor; it sold over 100,000 copies in two weeks.[16] Windows at the time generated more revenue for Microsoft than OS/2, and the company decided to move more resources from OS/2 to Windows.[17] In the ensuing years, the popularity of OS/2 declined, and Windows quickly became the favored PC platform.

During the transition from MS-DOS to Windows, the success of Microsoft's product Microsoft Office allowed the company to gain ground on application-software competitors, such as WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3.[18][19] According to The Register, Novell, an owner of WordPerfect for a time, alleged that Microsoft used its inside knowledge of the DOS and Windows kernels and of undocumented Application Programming Interface features to make Office perform better than its competitors.[20] Eventually, Microsoft Office became the dominant business suite, with a market share far exceeding that of its competitors.[21]

In 1993, Microsoft released Windows NT 3.1, a server-based operating system with a similar user interface to consumer versions of the operating system, but with an entirely different kernel.[18] In 1995, Microsoft released Windows 95, a new version of the company's flagship operating system which featured a completely new user interface, including a novel start button; more than a million copies of Microsoft Windows 95 were sold in the first four days after its release.[18] The company later released its web browser, Internet Explorer, with the Windows 95 Plus! Pack in August 1995 and subsequent Windows versions.[22]

1995–2005: Internet and legal issues[edit]

In the mid-90s, Microsoft began to expand its product line into computer networking and the World Wide Web. On August 24 1995, it launched a major online service, MSN (Microsoft Network), as a direct competitor to AOL. MSN became an umbrella service for Microsoft's online services.[10][18][23] The company continued to branch out into new markets in 1996, starting with a joint venture with NBC to create a new 24/7 cable news station, MSNBC.[18][24] Microsoft entered the personal digital assistant (PDA) market in November with Windows CE 1.0, a new built-from-scratch version of their flagship operating system, specifically designed to run on low-memory, low-performance machines, such as handhelds and other small computers.[25] Later in 1997, Internet Explorer 4.0 was released for both Mac OS and Windows, marking the beginning of the takeover of the browser market from rival Netscape. In October, the Justice Department filed a motion in the Federal District Court in which they stated that Microsoft had violated an agreement signed in 1994, and asked the court to stop the bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows.[10]

File:Windows XP.PNG
Windows XP introduced a new interface, along with many other new features. This screenshot shows Windows XP Professional.
The year 1998 was significant in Microsoft's history, with Bill Gates appointing Steve Ballmer as president of Microsoft but remaining as Chair and CEO himself.[10] The company released Windows 98, an update to Windows 95 that incorporated a number of Internet-focused features and support for new types of devices.[10] On April 3 2000, a judgment was handed down in the case of United States v. Microsoft,[8] calling the company an "abusive monopoly"[26] and forcing the company to split into two separate units. Part of this ruling was later overturned by a federal appeals court, and eventually settled with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2001.

In 2001, Microsoft released Windows XP, the first version that encompassed the features of both its business and home product lines. XP introduced a new graphical user interface, the first such change since Windows 95.[10][27] Later, Microsoft would enter the multi-billion-dollar game console market dominated by Sony and Nintendo, with the release of the Xbox.[10] Microsoft encountered more turmoil in March 2004 when antitrust legal action would be brought against it by the European Union for allegedly abusing its market dominance (see European Union Microsoft antitrust case), eventually resulting in a judgement to produce a new version of its Windows XP platform—called Windows XP Home Edition N—that did not include its Windows Media Player.[28][29]

2005–Present: Vista and other transitions[edit]

File:Windows Vista Desktop.png
Windows Vista had major changes, mostly notable within its interface.

In 2006, Bill Gates announced a two year transition period from his role as Chief Software Architect, which would be taken by Ray Ozzie, and planned to remain the company's chairman, head of the Board of Directors and act as an adviser on key projects.[30] Windows Vista is Microsoft's latest operating system, released in January 2007. Microsoft Office 2007 was released at the same time; its "Ribbon" user interface is a significant departure from its predecessors.


Since the 1980s, Microsoft has been the focus of much controversy in the computer industry.[unverified] Most criticism has been for its business tactics, which some perceive as unfair and anticompetitive.[unverified] Often, these tactics have been described with the motto "embrace, extend and extinguish". Microsoft initially embraces a competing standard or product, then extends it to produce their own incompatible version of the software or standard, which in time extinguishes competition that does not or cannot use Microsoft's new version.[31] These and other tactics have led to various companies and governments filing lawsuits against Microsoft.[32][29][8] Microsoft has been called a "velvet sweatshop" in reference to allegations of the company working its employees to the point where it might be bad for their health. The first instance of "velvet sweatshop" in reference to Microsoft originated from a Seattle Times article in 1989, and later became used to describe the company by some of Microsoft's own employees.[33][34]

Free software proponents point to the company's joining of the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance (TCPA) as a cause of concern. A group of companies that seek to implement an initiative called Trusted Computing (which is claimed to set out to increase security and privacy in a user's computer), the TCPA is decried by critics as a means to allow software developers to enforce any sort of restriction they wish over their software.


Advocates of free software also take issue with Microsoft's promotion of Digital Rights Management (DRM), and the company's total cost of ownership (TCO) comparisons with its "Get the facts" campaign. Digital Rights Management is a technology that gives digital content and software providers the ability to put restrictions on how their products are used on their customers' machines; these restrictions are seen by the technology's detractors as an infringement on fair use and other rights.[35] DRM restricts even legal uses, for example, re-mixing or playing in a slideshow. The "Get the facts" campaign argues that Windows Server has a lower TCO than Linux and lists a variety of studies in order to prove its case.[36] Proponents of Linux unveiled their own study arguing that, contrary to one of Microsoft's claims, Linux has lower management costs than Windows Server.[37] Another study by the Yankee Group claims that Windows Server costs less than Linux for those with legacy systems and more for those without.[38]


It is a screen encountered when Windows cannot (or is in danger of being unable to) recover from a system error.[39]]] Older versions of Microsoft products were often characterized as being unstable—versions of Windows based on MS-DOS, and later the Windows 95 kernel from the mid 1990s to early 2000s, were widely panned for their instability, displaying the "Blue Screen of Death", when Windows abruptly terminates an application—usually due to malfunctioning drivers or hardware. In Windows NT/2000/XP Professional, the blue screen is also known as the Windows Stop Message.[39][40] While less frequent, Windows 2000 and XP are still susceptible to Blue Screens of Death.[41] Blue Screens of Death in Windows NT/2000/XP and later Windows systems are the equivalent of kernel panics in Unix-like systems whereas BSODs in Windows 95 or 98 could be for much less severe problems and usually didn't require a reboot. Although many of these bugs are from Windows itself, Microsoft stated [unverified] that computer users who are not familiar with the division of responsibilities among applications, the operating system, and third-party device drivers sometimes blame them for problems that are created by third-party software, particularly poorly written device drivers. As an effort to enforce the usage of signed drivers (which must pass a compatibility test), Microsoft announced that they will disallow unsigned drivers in the 64-bit editions of Windows Vista.[42]Template:Verify source[43]Template:Verify source[44]

Numerous Microsoft products, most notably Internet Explorer and earlier versions of Outlook, are seen as being insecure to malicious attacks such as computer viruses. Rob Pegoraro, writing for the Washington Post, says that due to Windows leaving five Internet ports open for various running services, malware has an easier time compromising the system.[45] In an article for SecurityFocus, Scott Granneman said that as of 2004-06-17 there were 153 accumulated security holes since 2001-04-18 and that Internet Explorer "is a buggy, insecure, dangerous piece of software."[46] Mike Nash, a Microsoft Corporate Vice President, responded to Internet Explorer security concerns in a 2005 interview by stating that the version of Internet Explorer shipped with Windows XP Service Pack 2 gives it security on the same level as its competition.[47] The current version, Internet Explorer 7, has a security overhaul with anti-phishing and malware prevention technology.[48]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Microsoft Corporation Annual Report 2005. (doc) Microsoft. URL accessed on 1 October, 2005.
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named fastfacts
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named 2006financials
  4. Bishop, Todd (September 23, 2004). "The rest of the motto". Todd Bishop's Microsoft Blog (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). Retrieved 2007-01-22. </li>
  5. Chapman, Merrill R., In search of stupidity: over 20 years of high-tech marketing disasters (2nd Edition) , Apress, ISBN 1-59059-721-4
  6. Julie Bick (2005-05-29). "The Microsoft Millionaires Come of Age". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-07-03. </li>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hiawatha Bray. Somehow, Usenet lumbers on. The Boston Globe. URL accessed on 2006-07-03.
    * Microsoft Frequently Asked Questions. Microsoft (Most Valued Professional). URL accessed on 2006-07-01.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 United States v. Microsoft. U.S. Department of Justice. URL accessed on August 5, 2005. homepage at the United States Department of Justice
  9. John, ({{{year}}}). "Indecent proposal? Doing Business With Microsoft," IEEE Software, {{{volume}}}, 113-117.
    * Jennifer Edstrom; Marlin Eller (1998). Barbarians Led by Bill Gates: Microsoft from inside, N.Y. Holt. ISBN 0-8050-5754-4.
    * Fred Moody (1995). I Sing the Body Electronic: A Year With Microsoft on the Multimedia Frontier, Viking. ISBN 0-670-84875-1.
    * Michael A. Cusumano; Richard W. Selby (1995). Microsoft Secrets: How the World's Most Powerful Software Company Creates Technology, Shapes Markets and Manages People, Free Press. ISBN 0-684-85531-3.
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 10.12 Information for Students: Key Events In Microsoft History. (doc) Microsoft Visitor Center Student Information. URL accessed on 1 October, 2005.
  11. Booting Your PC: Getting Up Close & Personal With A Computer’s BIOS. Smart Computing. URL accessed on 2006-09-02.
    * What Is The BIOS?. Smart Computing. URL accessed on 2006-09-02.
    * Everything You Want or Need to Know About Your BIOS. Extreme Tech. URL accessed on 2006-09-02.
    * Lemley, Mark; Peter S. Menell and Robert P. Merges (2006). "Appendix B: Introduction to Computer Technology" Intellectual Property in the New Technological Age (PDF), 4th, New York: Aspen Publishers. ISBN 0-7355-3652-X. URL accessed 2006-09-02.
    * MS DOS and PC DOS. Lexikon's History of Computing. URL accessed on 2006-07-05.
    * "When It Comes To DOS, You Now Have A Choice". Smart Computing. June 1994. Retrieved 2006-07-05.
    * "Microsoft to Microsoft disk operating system (MS-DOS)". Smart Computing. March 2002. Retrieved 2006-07-05. </li>
  12. Manek Dubash. Techworld Article:OS/2 users must look elsewhere. Techworld. IDG. URL accessed on 2005-07-05.
  13. Microsoft Systems Journal — 1986-1994 Index. Microsoft. URL accessed on 2007-03-31. See May 1987 releases.
  14. Seattle Post-Intelligencer Staff (2005-05-18). "Redmond council OKs Microsoft expansion". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2006-07-04. </li>
  15. Template:cite press release
  16. Windows History. Microsoft. URL accessed on 2006-07-03.
  17. David Both. OS/2 History. OS/2 VOICE. URL accessed on 2006-07-03.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 Microsoft Company 15 September 1975. The History of Computing Project. URL accessed on August 11, 2005.
  19. Steve Masters. Behind the Pearly Gates. VNU Business Publications. URL accessed on 2006-07-04.
  20. Andrew Orlowski. Novell's MS complaint: we wuz robbed. The Register. Situation Publishing Ltd. URL accessed on 2006-07-04.
  21. Harry McCracken (2000-09-13). "A Peek at Office Upgrade".,aid,18462,pg,1,00.asp. Retrieved 2006-07-04. </li>
  22. Sandi Hardmeier. Microsoft - The History of Internet Explorer. Microsoft. URL accessed on 2007-02-06.
  23. MSN Historical Timeline: A brief history of milestone events in the life of MSN from the past ten years. Microsoft. URL accessed on 2006-07-03.
  24. Marketplace: News Archives for July 15, 1996. American Public Media. URL accessed on 2006-07-03.
  25. The History of Microsoft Windows CS. HPC:Factor. URL accessed on 2006-07-03.
  26. Thomas Penfield Jackson, U.S. District Judge. U.S. vs. Microsoft findings of fact. U.S. Department of Justice. URL accessed on 2006-05-18.
  27. Windows XP Professional Features. Microsoft. URL accessed on 2006-07-03.
  28. "Microsoft hit by record EU fine". CNN. 2004-03-25. Retrieved 2006-05-19. </li>
  29. 29.0 29.1 Commission Decision of 24.03.2004 relating to a proceeding under Article 82 of the EC Treaty (Case COMP/C-3/37.792 Microsoft). (PDF) Commission of the European Communities. URL accessed on August 5, 2005. (from the official EU website)
  30. Template:cite press release
  31. Will Rodger. Intel exec: MS wanted to 'extend, embrace and extinguish' competition. ZDNet News. URL accessed on 2006-05-18.
  32. Template:cite press release
    * Andrew Orlowski. Eolas' web patent nullified. URL accessed on 2006-05-18.
    * Tony Dennis. Sendo & Microsoft — it all ends in tears. URL accessed on 2006-05-18.
    * Dan Nystedt (2005-12-07). "Update: Microsoft fined $32M by South Korea". IDG News Service. Retrieved 2006-05-19. </li>
  33. Andrews, Paul (23 April 1989). "A 'Velvet Sweatshop' or a High-Tech Heaven?". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-03-30. </li>
  34. Editor's note. Microsoft Systems Journal. URL accessed on September 27, 2005.
  35. David Chisnall. DRM: Digital Rights or Digital Restrictions?. URL accessed on 2006-05-18.
  36. Get the facts home. Microsoft. URL accessed on 2006-05-19.
  37. Robert Jaques. Linux fans hit back at Microsoft TCO claims. URL accessed on 2006-05-19.
  38. Mary Jo Foley (2004-03-24). "Yankee Independently Pits Windows TCO vs. Linux TCO".,1895,1553727,00.asp. Retrieved 2006-05-19. </li>
  39. 39.0 39.1 J. D. Biersdorfer (1999-03-25). "Q & A; Blue Screen: Not 'Death,' But Annoying". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-05-19. </li>
  40. Beginners Guides: Crash Recovery - Dealing with the Blue Screen Of Death. URL accessed on 2006-05-19.
  41. Richard Richtmyer. Opening up Windows XP: New features are nice, but compatibility could be a problem. CNN. URL accessed on 2006-05-26.
  42. IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL message restarts my Windows 2000 server. URL accessed on 2006-05-19.
  43. Digital Signature Benefits for Windows Users. Microsoft. URL accessed on 2006-05-19.
  44. How to Use Driver Verifier to Troubleshoot Windows Drivers. Microsoft. URL accessed on 2006-05-19.
    * Paul Thurrott. Windows Vista Feature Focus: 64-bit Support. Supersite for Windows. URL accessed on 2006-05-26.
  45. Pegoraro, Rob (2003-08-24). "Microsoft Windows: Insecure by Design". Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-05-19. </li>
  46. Scott Granneman. Time to Dump Internet Explorer. URL accessed on 2006-05-19.
  47. Q&A: How Microsoft Is Keeping Pace with an Ever-Changing Security Landscape. Microsoft. URL accessed on 2006-05-19.
  48. Internet Explorer 7: Security gets an upgrade. Microsoft. URL accessed on 2006-05-19.
  49. </ol>

External links[edit]

This article contains content from Wikipedia. Current versions of the GNU FDL article Microsoft on WP may contain information useful to the improvement of this article WP
This article contains content from Wikipedia. Current versions of the GNU FDL article Microsoft on WP may contain information useful to the improvement of this article WP