Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational technology company that develops, manufactures, licenses, supports and sells computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related 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. It also offers a whole range of hardware products, being the most notable the Xbox video game consoles and the Microsoft Surface lineup of touchscreen personal computers.
Microsoft’s commercial licensing segments licenses server products, including Windows Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Visual Studio, System Center, and related Client Access Licenses (CALs); Windows Embedded; Windows operating system; Microsoft Office for business, including Office, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, and related CALs; Microsoft Dynamics business solutions; and Skype. Its commercial other segment offers enterprise services, including premier support services and Microsoft consulting services; commercial cloud comprising Office 365 Commercial, other Microsoft Office online offerings, Dynamics CRM Online, and Microsoft Azure; and other commercial products and online services.
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Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen on April 4, 1975, and it is based in Redmond, Washington. As of today. It is considered one of the most powerful technology companies of the world. It is the world’s largest software maker by revenue, and one of the world’s most valuable companies. Microsoft is ranked No. 30 in the 2018 Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen officially established Microsoft on April 4, 1975, with Gates as the CEO, to to develop and sell BASIC interpreters for the Altair 8800. The original name of “Micro-Soft” (short for microcomputer software) 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 its headquarters to Bellevue, Washington in January 1979.
Microsoft entered the operating system (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.
Despite having begun jointly developing a new operating system, OS/2, with IBM in August 1985, Microsoft released Microsoft Windows, a graphical extension for MS-DOS, on November 20. Microsoft moved its headquarters from Bellevue to Redmond, Washington, on February 26, 1986, and on March 13 went public, with the resulting rise in stock making an estimated four billionaires and 12,000 millionaires from Microsoft employees. Microsoft released its version of OS/2 to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on April 2, 1987. In 1990, due to the partnership with IBM, the Federal Trade Commission set its eye on Microsoft for possible collusion, marking the beginning of over a decade of legal clashes with the U.S. government. Meanwhile, the company was at work on a 32-bit OS, Microsoft Windows NT, which was heavily based on their copy of the OS/2 code. 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 suite bundled separate productivity applications, such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. On May 22, Microsoft launched Windows 3.0, featuring streamlined user interface graphics and improved protected mode capability for the Intel 386 processor. Both Office and Windows became dominant in their respective areas.
Following Bill Gates’ 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. With a few exceptions of new companies, like Netscape, Microsoft was the only major and established company that acted fast enough to be a part of the World Wide Web practically from the start.
A few months later, 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 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.
On January 13, 2000, Bill Gates handed over the CEO position to Steve Ballmer, an old college friend of Gates and employee of the company since 1980, while 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.
On October 25, 2001, Microsoft released Windows XP, unifying the mainstream and NT lines of OS under the NT codebase. The company released the Xbox later that year, entering the video 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 requiring Microsoft to produce new versions of Windows XP without Windows Media Player: Windows XP Home Edition N and Windows XP Professional N. In November 2005, the Xbox 360 was released.
Released in January 2007, the next version of 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 products 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, following 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 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 an extensive reworking of Windows.
As the smartphone industry boomed in 2007, Microsoft had 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. Microsoft implemented a new strategy for the software industry that had them working more closely with smartphone manufacturers, such as Nokia, and providing a consistent user experience across all smartphones using the Windows Phone OS. It used a new user interface design language, codenamed “Metro”, which prominently used simple shapes, typography and iconography, utilizing the concept of minimalism.
Microsoft is a founding member of the Open Networking Foundation started on March 23, 2011. Fellow founders were Google, HP Networking, Yahoo!, Verizon Communications, Deutsche Telekom and 17 other companies. This 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.
Following the release of Windows Phone, Microsoft undertook a gradual rebranding of its product range throughout 2011 and 2012, with the corporation’s logos, products, services and websites adopting the principles and concepts of the Metro design language. Microsoft unveiled 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, which was subsequently replaced by a consumer preview on February 29, 2012, and released to the public in May. The Surface was unveiled on June 18, becoming 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, they launched the Outlook.com webmail service to compete with Gmail. On September 4, 2012, Microsoft released Windows Server 2012.
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.
In August 2012, the New York City Police Department announced a partnership with Microsoft for the development of the Domain Awareness System which is used for Police surveillance in New York City.
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. Microsoft suffered a loss of more than US$32 billion.
In line with the maturing PC business, in July 2013, Microsoft announced that it would reorganize the business into four new business divisions, namely Operating System, Apps, Cloud, and Devices. All previous divisions will be dissolved into new divisions without any workforce cuts. On September 3, 2013, Microsoft agreed to buy Nokia’s mobile unit for $7 billion, following Amy Hood taking the role of CFO.
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, in place of Bill Gates, who continued to participate as a technology advisor. Thompson became the second chairman in Microsoft’s history. On April 25, 2014, Microsoft acquired Nokia Devices and Services for $7.2 billion. This new subsidiary was renamed Microsoft Mobile Oy.
On January 21, 2015, Microsoft announced the release of their first Interactive whiteboard, Microsoft Surface Hub. On July 29, 2015, Windows 10 was released, with its server sibling, Windows Server 2016, 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%. During the summer of 2015 the company lost $7.6 billion related to its mobile-phone business, firing 7,800 employees.
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. In May 2016, the company announced it was laying off 1,850 workers, and taking an impairment and restructuring charge of $950 million.
In January 2018, Microsoft patched Windows 10 to account for CPU problems related to Intel’s Meltdown security breach. The patched led issues with the Microsoft Azure virtual machines reliant on Intel’s CPU architecture. On January 12, Microsoft released PowerShell Core 6.0 for the macOS and Linux operating systems. In February 2018, Microsoft killed notification support for their Windows Phone devices which effectively ended firmware updates for the discontinued devices. In March 2018, Microsoft recalled Windows 10 S to change it to a mode for the Windows operating system rather than a separate and unique operating system. In March the company also established guidelines that censor users of Office 365 from using profanity in private documents. In April 2018, Microsoft released the source code for Windows File Manager under the MIT License to celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary. In April the company further expressed willingness to embrace open source initiatives by announcing Azure Sphere as its own derivative of the Linux operating system. In May 2018, Microsoft partnered with 17 American intelligence agencies to develop products that track American citizens. The project is dubbed “Azure Government” and has ties to the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) surveillance program. On June 4, 2018, Microsoft officially announced the acquisition of GitHub for $7.5 billion, a deal that closed on October 26, 2018. On July 10, 2018, Microsoft revealed the Surface Go platform to the public. Later in the month it converted Microsoft Teams to gratis. In August 2018, Microsoft released two projects called Microsoft AccountGuard and Defending Democracy. It also unveiled Snapdragon 850 compatibility for Windows 10 on the ARM architecture.
In August 2018, Toyota Tsusho began a partnership with Microsoft to create fish farming tools using the Microsoft Azure application suite for Internet of things (IoT) technologies related to water management. Developed in part by researchers from Kindai University, the water pump mechanisms use artificial intelligence to count the number of fish on a conveyor belt, analyze the number of fish, and deduce the effectiveness of water flow from the data the fish provide. The specific computer programs used in the process fall under the Azure Machine Learning and the Azure IoT Hub platforms. In September 2018, Microsoft discontinued Skype Classic. On October 10, 2018, Microsoft joined the Open Invention Network community despite holding more than 60,000 patents. In November 2018, Microsoft agreed to supply 100,000 Microsoft HoloLens headsets to the United States military in order to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy.” In November 2018, Microsoft introduced Azure Multi-Factor Authentication for Microsoft Azure. In December 2018, Microsoft announced Project Mu, an open source release of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) core used in Microsoft Surface and Hyper-V products. The project promotes the idea of Firmware as a Service. In the same month, Microsoft announced the open source implementation of Windows Forms and the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) which will allow for further movement of the company toward the transparent release of key frameworks used in developing Windows desktop applications and software.
February 20, 2019 Microsoft Corp said it will offer its cyber security service AccountGuard to 12 new markets in Europe including Germany, France and Spain, to close security gaps and protect customers in political space from hacking. In February 2019, hundreds of Microsoft employees protested the company’s war profiteering from a $480 million contract to develop virtual reality headsets for the United States Army.
As of 2017, the company is organized into three operating business units, and four operating development or engineering units.
The company is run by a board of directors made up of mostly company outsiders, as is customary for publicly
traded companies. Members of the board of directors as of January 2018 are Bill Gates, Satya Nadella, Reid Hoffman, Lee Johnson, Teri L. List-Stoll, Charles Noski, Helmut Panke, Sandi Peterson, Penny Pritzker, Charles W. Scharf, Arne Sorenson, John W. Stanton, John W. Thompson and Padmasree Warrior. Board members are elected every year at the annual shareholders’ meeting using a majority vote system. There are five committees within the board which oversee more specific matters. These committees include the Audit Committee, which handles accounting issues with the company including auditing and reporting; the Compensation Committee, which approves compensation for the CEO and other employees of the company; the Finance Committee, which handles financial matters such as proposing mergers and acquisitions; the Governance and Nominating Committee, which handles various corporate matters including nomination of the board; and the Antitrust Compliance Committee, which attempts to prevent company practices from violating antitrust laws.
When Microsoft went public and launched its Initial Public Offering (IPO) in 1986, the opening stock price was $21; after the trading day, the price closed at $27.75. As of July 2010, with the company’s nine stock splits, any IPO shares would be multiplied by 288; if one were to buy the IPO today, given the splits and other factors, it would cost about 9 cents. The stock price peaked in 1999 at around $119 ($60.928, adjusting for splits). The company began to offer a dividend on January 16, 2003, starting at eight cents per share for the fiscal year followed by a dividend of sixteen cents per share the subsequent year, switching from yearly to quarterly dividends in 2005 with eight cents a share per quarter and a special one-time payout of three dollars per share for the second quarter of the fiscal year. Though the company had subsequent increases in dividend payouts, the price of Microsoft’s stock remained steady for years.
Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service have both given a AAA rating to Microsoft, whose assets were valued at $41 billion as compared to only $8.5 billion in unsecured debt. Consequently, in February 2011 Microsoft released a corporate bond amounting to $2.25 billion with relatively low borrowing rates compared to government bonds. For the first time in 20 years Apple Inc. surpassed Microsoft in Q1 2011 quarterly profits and revenues due to a slowdown in PC sales and continuing huge losses in Microsoft’s Online Services Division (which contains its search engine Bing). Microsoft profits were $5.2 billion, while Apple Inc. profits were $6 billion, on revenues of $14.5 billion and $24.7 billion respectively. Microsoft’s Online Services Division has been continuously loss-making since 2006 and in Q1 2011 it lost $726 million. This follows a loss of $2.5 billion for the year 2010.
On July 20, 2012, Microsoft posted its first quarterly loss ever, despite earning record revenues for the quarter and fiscal year, with a net loss of $492 million due to a writedown related to the advertising company aQuantive, which had been acquired for $6.2 billion back in 2007. As of January 2014, Microsoft’s market capitalization stood at $314B, making it the 8th largest company in the world by market capitalization. On November 14, 2014, Microsoft overtook ExxonMobil to become the second most-valuable company by market capitalization, behind only Apple Inc. Its total market value was over $410B — with the stock price hitting $50.04 a share, the highest since early 2000. In 2015, Reuters reported that Microsoft Corp had earnings abroad of $76.4 billion which were untaxed by the Internal Revenue Service. Under U.S. law, corporations don’t pay income tax on overseas profits until the profits are brought into the United States.
The corporate headquarters, informally known as the Microsoft Redmond campus, is located at One Microsoft Way in Redmond, Washington. Microsoft initially moved onto the grounds of the campus on February 26, 1986, weeks before the company went public on March 13. The headquarters has since experienced multiple expansions since its establishment. It is estimated to encompass over 8 million ft2 (750,000 m2) of office space and 30,000–40,000 employees. Additional offices are located in Bellevue and Issaquah, Washington(90,000 employees worldwide). The company is planning to upgrade its Mountain View, California, campus on a grand scale. The company has occupied this campus since 1981. In 2016, the company bought the 32-acre campus, with plans to renovate and expand it by 25%. Microsoft operates an East Coast headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Technical reference for developers and articles for various Microsoft magazines such as Microsoft Systems Journal (MSJ) are available through the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN). MSDN also offers subscriptions for companies and individuals, and the more expensive subscriptions usually offer access to pre-release beta versions of Microsoft software. In April 2004 Microsoft launched a community site for developers and users, titled Channel 9, that provides a wiki and an Internet forum. Another community site that provides daily videocasts and other services, On10.net, launched on March 3, 2006. Free technical support is traditionally provided through online Usenet newsgroups, and CompuServe in the past, monitored by Microsoft employees; there can be several newsgroups for a single product. Helpful people can be elected by peers or Microsoft employees for Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) status, which entitles them to a sort of special social status and possibilities for awards and other benefits.
Microsoft is an outspoken opponent of the cap on H-1B visas, which allow companies in the U.S. to employ certain foreign workers. Bill Gates claims the cap on H1B visas makes it difficult to hire employees for the company, stating “I’d certainly get rid of the H1B cap” in 2005. Critics of H1B visas argue that relaxing the limits would result in increased unemployment for U.S. citizens due to H1B workers working for lower salaries. The Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, a report of how progressive the organization deems company policies towards LGBT employees, rated Microsoft as 87% from 2002 to 2004 and as 100% from 2005 to 2010 after they allowed gender expression.
In August 2018, Microsoft implemented a policy for all companies providing subcontractors to require 12 weeks of paid parental leave to each employee. This expands on the former requirement from 2015 requiring 15 days of paid vacation and sick leave each year. In 2015, Microsoft established its own parental leave policy to allow 12 weeks off for parental leave with an additional 8 weeks for the parent who gave birth.
In 2011, Greenpeace released a report rating the top ten big brands in cloud computing on their sources of electricity for their data centers. At the time, data centers consumed up to 2% of all global electricity and this amount was projected to increase. Phil Radford of Greenpeace said “we are concerned that this new explosion in electricity use could lock us into old, polluting energy sources instead of the clean energy available today,” and called on “Amazon, Microsoft and other leaders of the information-technology industry must embrace clean energy to power their cloud-based data centers.” In 2013, Microsoft agreed to buy power generated by a Texas wind project to power one of its data centers. Microsoft is ranked on the 17th place in Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics (16th Edition) that ranks 18 electronics manufacturers according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change. Microsoft’s timeline for phasing out brominated flame retardant (BFRs) and phthalates in all products is 2012 but its commitment to phasing out PVC is not clear. As of January 2011, it has no products that are completely free from PVC and BFRs.
Microsoft’s main U.S. campus received a silver certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program in 2008, and it installed over 2,000 solar panels on top of its buildings at its Silicon Valley campus, generating approximately 15 percent of the total energy needed by the facilities in April 2005. Microsoft makes use of alternative forms of transit. It created one of the world’s largest private bus systems, the “Connector”, to transport people from outside the company; for on-campus transportation, the “Shuttle Connect” uses a large fleet of hybrid cars to save fuel. The company also subsidizes regional public transport, provided by Sound Transit and King County Metro, as an incentive. In February 2010 however, Microsoft took a stance against adding additional public transport and high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to the State Route 520 and its floating bridge connecting Redmond to Seattle; the company did not want to delay the construction any further. Microsoft was ranked number 1 in the list of the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces by the Great Place to Work Institute in 2011.