What is Microsoft Corporation? The Birth of Microsoft? Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational technology corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington. Microsoft’s best-known software products are the Windows line of operating systems, the Microsoft 365 suite of productivity applications, and the Edge web browser. Its flagship hardware products are the Xbox video game consoles and the Microsoft Surface lineup of touchscreen personal computers.
Microsoft ranked No. 14 in the 2022 Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue; it was the world’s largest software maker by revenue as of 2022. It is considered one of the Big Five American information technology companies, alongside Alphabet (parent company of Google), Amazon, Apple, and Meta Platforms.
Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen 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 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 several corporate acquisitions, the largest being the acquisition of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in December 2016, followed by its acquisition of Skype Technologies for $8.5 billion in May 2011.
What is Microsoft Corporation?
Microsoft is engaged in developing, licensing and supporting a range of software products and services catering to different requirements. In 2000 Steve Ballmer was appointed the new CEO of Microsoft. Bill Gates had met Steve Ballmer at Harvard University before he left. Although there was some concern over Ballmer’s ability, Microsoft retained its top spot in both business and personal computer markets. Microsoft’s primary strengths and most of its profits were obtained from the business side. Although the company recognised that they had a major presence in consumer markets as technology advances.
The successful Altair deal back in January 1975 inspired Bill Gates and Paul Allen to form Microsoft. Their revenues for 1975 totalled $16,000. Microsoft’s big break was in 1980 when a partnership was formed with IBM which resulted in Microsoft providing a crucial operating system, DOS, for IBM PCs. This meant that for every IBM Computer sold a royalty was paid to Microsoft. In 1990, Gates showed the future plan for Microsoft with the introduction of Windows 3.0. 60 million copies of Windows had been sold now which effectively made Microsoft the sole keeper of the PC software standard.
Microsoft before 1990 was predominantly a supplier to the hardware manufacturers. That was their target market. As technology advanced and personal computers become so popular, the bulk of Microsoft’s revenue was generated from sales to consumers. It was the first software company to reach $1 Billion in revenues. As more and more versions of Microsoft Windows were launched, Microsoft captured a higher market share of the world’s PC (around 90%).
Project Longhorn in 2001, saw many of Microsoft’s previous operating systems being replaced starting with Vista. Vista was released to the general public in 2007 and it was the new operating system. There were many Vista options available catering for different consumers; Home (Basic or Premium), Ultimate, Business and many more. Microsoft’s core customers, the corporate market preferred Windows XP as the operating system was fast, stable and secure.
Windows 7 was released in 2009 to replace Vista which secured Microsoft’s lead in the software market. This was followed by the release of Windows 8 in Oct 2012 which included major changes to its OS platform and user interface to improve user experience on tablets. Since then Windows 8.1 has been released (October 2013) which contained more improvements.
The Birth of Microsoft
In January 1975, Allen read an article in Popular Electronics magazine about the Altair 8800 microcomputer and showed it to Gates. Gates called MITS, makers of the Altair, and offered his and Allen’s services to write a version of the new BASIC programming language for the Altair.
After eight weeks, Allen and Gates demonstrated their program to MITS, which agreed to distribute and market the product under the name Altair BASIC. The deal inspired Gates and Allen to form their own software company. Thus, Microsoft was started on April 4, 1975 in Albuquerque, New Mexico—the home of MITS—with Gates as the first CEO.
Where the Name ‘Microsoft’ Came From
On July 29, 1975, Gates used the name “Micro-Soft”—which had been suggested by Allen—in a letter to Allen referring to their partnership. The name, a portmanteau of “microcomputer” and “software,” was registered with the New Mexico secretary of state on Nov. 26, 1976.
In August 1977, less than a year later, the company opened its first international office. The branch, located in Japan, was called ASCII Microsoft. In 1979, the company moved to Bellevue, Washington, and two years later it incorporated under the name Microsoft Inc. Gates was president of the company and chairman of the board, and Allen was executive vice president.
History of Microsoft Products
Microsoft Operating Systems
An operating system is a fundamental software that allows a computer to operate. As a newly formed company, Microsoft’s first operating system product to be publicly released was a version of Unix called Xenix, released in 1980. Xenix was later used as the basis for Microsoft’s first word processor Multi-Tool Word, a predecessor to Microsoft Word.
Microsoft’s first wildly successful operating system was MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System), which was written for IBM in 1981 and based on computer programmer Tim Paterson’s QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System). In the deal of the century, Gates licensed MS-DOS to IBM but retained the rights to the software. As a result, Gates made a fortune for Microsoft, which had become a major soft vendor.
Microsoft’s mouse was released on May 2, 1983.
Also in 1983, Microsoft’s crowning achievement was released. The Microsoft Windows operating system had a novel graphical user interface and a multitasking environment for IBM computers. In 1986, the company went public. The success meant that Gates became a billionaire at age 31.
1989 marked the release of Microsoft Office, a software package that, as the name describes, is a collection of programs for use in an office. Still used today, it includes a word processor, spreadsheet, mail program, business presentation software, and more.
In August 1995, Microsoft released Windows 95. This included technologies for connecting to the internet, such as built-in support for dial-up networking, TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), and the web browser Internet Explorer 1.0.
In 2001, Microsoft introduced its first gaming unit, the Xbox system. Xbox faced stiff competition from Sony’s PlayStation, and eventually, Microsoft discontinued the original Xbox in favor of later versions. In 2005, Microsoft released the Xbox 360 gaming console, which was a success.
In 2012, Microsoft made its first foray into the computing hardware market with the announcement of Surface tablets that ran Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro.
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