Microsoft Corporation, leading American computer software company. Microsoft develops and sells a wide variety of computer software products in more than fifty countries. Microsoft’s Windows operating systems for personal computers are the most widely use operating systems in the world. Microsoft had revenues of $14.4 billion for the fiscal year ending June 1998, and employs more than 27,000 people in 60 countries. Microsoft has it’s headquaters in Redmond Washington.
Microsoft’s other well known products include, Word, a word processor; Excel, a spreadsheet program; Access, a database program; and PowerPoint, a program used for making business presentations. These products are sold separately from Windows as a part of Microsoft Office. Microsoft also makes Back Office, an integrated set of server products for businesses. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer allows users to browse the World Wide Web. Among Microsoft’s other products are reference applications; games; finical software; programming languages for software developers (eg; Visual Basic) ; input devices, such as pointing devices and keyboards; and computer related books.
Microsoft operates The Microsoft Network (MSN), a collection of news, travel, financial, entertainment, and information Web sites. Microsoft and the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) jointly operate MSNBC, a twenty four hour news, talk, and information cable television channel and companion Web site.
Microsoft was founded in 1975 by William H. Gates III and Paul Allen. The pair had teamed up in high school via their hobby of programming on the original PDP-10 computer from the Digital Equipment Corporation. In 1975 Popular Electronics magazine featured a cover story about the Altiar 8800, the first personal computer. The article inspired Gates and Allen to develop the first version of the BASIC programming language for the Altiar. They licensed the software to Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), the Altiar’s manufacturer, and formed Microsoft (originally Micro-soft) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to develop versions of BASIC for other computer companies. Microsoft’s early customers included fledgling hardware firms such as Apple Computer, maker of the Apple II computer; Commodore, maker of the PET computer; and Tandy Corporation; maker of the Radio Shack TRS-80 computer. In 1977 Microsoft shipped it’s second language product, Microsoft FORTRAN, and it soon released versions of BASIC for the 8080 and the 8086 microprocessors.
In 1979 Gates and Allen moved the company to Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of their hometown Seattle. ( Microsoft moved to it’s current headquaters in Redmond in 1986.) In 1980 International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) chose Microsoft to write the operating system for the IBM PC personal computer, to be introduced the following year. Under time and pressure, Microsoft purchased QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) from Seattle programmer Tim Paterson for $50.000 and renamed it MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System). As part of it’s contract with IBM, Microsoft was permitted to license the operating system to other companies. By 1984 Microsoft had licensed MS-DOS to 200 personal computer manufacturers, making MS-DOS the standard operating system for personal computers and driving Microsoft’s enormous growth in the 1980’s.
As sales of MS-DOS took off, Microsoft began to develop business applications for personal computers. In 1982 Microsoft released Multiplan, a spreadsheet program, and the following year, it released a word processing program, Microsoft Word. In 1984 Microsoft was one of the few established software companies that to develop application software for the Macintosh, a personal computer developed by Apple Computer. Microsoft’s early support for the Macintosh resulted in tremendous success for it’s Macintosh Application software, including Word, Excel, and Works (an integrated software suite). Multiplan for MS-DOS, however, faltered against the popular Lotus Development Corporation.
In 1985 Microsoft released Windows, an operating system that extended the features of MS-DOS and employed a graphical user interface. Windows 2.0 released in 1987, improved performance and offered a new visual appearance, In 1990 Microsoft released a more powerful version, Windows 3.0, which was followed by Windows 3.1 and 3.11. These versions which came preinstalled on most personal computers, rapidly became the most widely used operating systems. In 1990 Microsoft became the first personal computer software company to record $1 billion in annual sales.
As Microsoft’s dominance grew in the market for personal computer operating systems, the company was accused of monopolistic business practices. In 1990 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began investigating Microsoft for alleged