Microsoft Corporation is a leading developer of personal-computer software systems and applications.
The company also publishes books and multimedia titles, produces its own line of hybrid tablet computers, offers e-mail services, and sells electronic game systems and computer peripherals (input/output devices).
Microsoft is one of the most successful tech companies in history, with a market capitalization of just over $1 trillion. Its products are used by hundreds of millions of people every day, and its logo is one of the most recognized around the world.
Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. On April 4, 1975, at a time when most Americans used typewriters, childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft, a company that makes computer software.
Before Paul Allen and Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft, they were avid computer geeks in an age when access to computers was hard to come by. Allen and Gates even skipped high school classes to live and breathe in their school’s computer room. Eventually, they hacked the school’s computer and were caught, but instead of being expelled, they were offered unlimited computer time in exchange for helping to improve the school computer’s performance.
Originally based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Microsoft relocated to Washington State in 1979 and eventually grew into a major multinational technology corporation.
Gates and Allen started Microsoft—originally called Micro-Soft, for microprocessors and software—in order to produce software for the Altair 8800, an early personal computer.
In 1980, Microsoft formed a partnership with IBM to bundle Microsoft’s operating system with IBM computers – with that deal, IBM paid Microsoft a royalty for every sale.
The company was incorporated in Washington, D.C. under the name “Microsoft Corporation, Inc.” on June 25, 1981. The name stuck chords with everyone at the company after Bill Gates started calling it that. With having incorporated the company, it was announced that Bill Gates and Paul Allen would be the president and executive vice-president respectively, with both of them being a part of the Microsoft board.
In 1983, Microsoft released its word processing software Multi-Tool Word which was later renamed to Microsoft Word. People took notice of Microsoft Word since it was much easier and intuitive to use than what was currently available in the market. During the same year, it launched the Microsoft Mouse, which was also given away for free with every purchase of Microsoft Word.
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 1985, IBM requested Microsoft to develop a new operating system for their computers called OS/2. Microsoft produced that operating system, but also continued to sell their own alternative, which proved to be in direct competition with OS/2. Microsoft Windows eventually overshadowed 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.
In 1986, the company went public. The success meant that Gates became a billionaire at age 31. In the same year Microsoft moved its headquarters from Bellevue to Redmond, Washington, where it remains as Microsoft’s main headquarters.
In 1989, Microsoft launched the Microsoft Office, and it was a bundle of separate programs such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint and so on.
By the mid-1990s Microsoft, which became a publicly owned corporation in 1986, had become one of the most powerful and profitable companies in American history.
In 1998, the US Department of Justice and 20 state attorneys general charged Microsoft with violating antitrust laws by using its dominance to drive competitors out of business – in 2001, the company reached a settlement with the government that imposed restrictions on its corporate practices.
Also in 2001, Microsoft joined the video-game market with the launch of its Xbox console.
Steve Ballmer replaced Gates as CEO in 2000, and later envisioned a “devices and services” strategy.
Earlier dethroned by Apple in 2010, in 2018 Microsoft reclaimed its position as the most valuable publicly traded company in the world. In April 2019, Microsoft reached the trillion-dollar market cap, becoming the third US public company to be valued at over $1 trillion after Apple and Amazon respectively. As of 2020, Microsoft has the third-highest global brand valuation.