Microsoft Corporation develops, manufactures, licenses, and sells computer software and electronic equipment. The company’s best-known products include the Windows line of operating systems and the Office suite of productivity applications, but it also produces a variety of other popular software and hardware, such as the Xbox video game console system and the Surface lineup of touchscreen personal computers. Headquartered in Redmond, Washington, the company has operations in more than 60 countries.
Microsoft was founded in 1975 by Harvard University classmates Bill Gates and Paul Allen. The company began by developing a BASIC compiler for the Altair 8800, a primitive early microcomputer. After seeing a feature on the microcomputer in a 1978 issue of Popular Electronics magazine, Gates contacted the founders of the new machine, Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), and offered to write a programming language for it. MITS agreed to distribute Gates’s BASIC, and the Microsoft Corporation was born.
The company expanded rapidly in the 1980s, using its dominant market position in PC software to launch the operating system called Windows and a series of related programs. By the 1990s, it had built a network of computers that ran Windows and dominated Internet software by offering programs such as Windows NT and Netscape Navigator to help people access the World Wide Web.
In the 2000s, the company entered a number of new markets. In the gaming industry, it released the Xbox series of video game consoles, which competed with Sony and Nintendo’s popular systems, and it produced a suite of electronic publishing software that included the Encarta multimedia encyclopedia and MSNBC. In the business world, it diversified into cloud computing with its Windows Azure platform and into tablet computers with the release of the first Surface device in 2012.
By 2004, the company faced legal threats from competitors and regulators in several countries over its dominant market positions. A judge found the company guilty of violating antitrust laws and ordered it to break up, but an appeals court overturned the ruling. The EU imposed its largest fine ever against Microsoft in 2004, in retaliation for anti-competitive practices.
In recent years, Microsoft has invested heavily in research and development and in creating the Surface line of tablets. The company has also shifted its focus from proprietary to open source, and it has begun to partner with other tech companies. In addition, the company is working to integrate artificial intelligence into its products and services, including Outlook, Windows, and Xbox, so that AI can help people get more done and be more productive.