Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) (SEHK: 4338) is an American multinational computer technology corporation. It develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of software products for computing devices. Microsoft's best-selling products are the Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software. These products have prominent positions in their respective markets, with market share estimates as high as 90% or more for Microsoft Windows as of 2006 and for Microsoft Office as of 2003. One of Bill Gates' key visions for the company is "to get a workstation running our software onto every desk and eventually in every home".
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. Throughout its history the company has been the target of criticism for various reasons, including monopoly status and anti-competitive business practices including refusal to deal and tying. The U.S. Justice Department and the European Commission, among others, have ruled against Microsoft for various antitrust violations.
Microsoft has footholds in other markets besides operating systems and office suites, 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 and home entertainment products such as the Xbox, Xbox 360, Zune and MSN TV. 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. The company's official website is one of the most visited on the Internet, receiving more than 2.4 million unique page views per day according to Alexa.com, which ranked the site 18th amongst all websites for traffic rank on September 12, 2007.
The History of Microsoft began on April 4, 1975, when it was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in Albuquerque. Its current best selling products are the Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software.
Starting in 1980, Microsoft formed an important partnership with IBM which allowed them to bundle Microsoft's operating system with computers that they sold, paying Microsoft a royalty for every sale. In 1985, IBM requested that Microsoft write a new operating system for their computers called the OS/2; Microsoft wrote the operating system, but also continued to sell their own version of it, which was in direct competition with the OS/2. The Microsoft version eventually overshadowed the OS/2 in terms of sales. When Microsoft launched several versions of Microsoft Windows in the 1990s, they had captured over 90% market share of the world's personal computers.
The company has now become largely successful. As of 2007, Microsoft has a global annual revenue of US$51.12 billion and nearly 79,000 employees in 102 countries. It develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of software products for computing devices.