Microsoft Corporation develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of computer software products. Its best-known products are the Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software. It also produces computer hardware and offers several Internet services, including the Bing search engine and the MSN portal. In addition, the company has stakes in several content-distribution channels, including MSNBC and the MSN online gaming console, the Xbox.
Microsoft was founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, a Harvard University graduate students who were developing BASIC interpreters for the Altair 8800 microcomputer. After forming their company, the pair contacted the founders of another new microcomputer, the Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems, to discuss a partnership. MITS agreed and the two companies formed the Microsoft Corporation.
While the company initially focused on developing and selling programming languages, it soon diversified into the development of other computer software and hardware. Its most successful products were the MS-DOS and later the Windows operating system, which became near-ubiquitous in desktop computer use. The company also developed and marketed a range of other desktop software products such as the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software, the Internet Explorer browser, and the Windows Media Player media player. Many of these programs were bundled directly with the Windows operating system or offered as preinstalled software on new computer systems.
In the 2000s, Microsoft expanded into the business software market with the CRM and SharePoint product lines. It also branched into the consumer electronics market with the introduction of the Xbox game console system and home entertainment systems such as the Zune personal media player. In the 2010s, Microsoft launched its Azure public cloud computing service and introduced tablet computers such as the Surface series.
As a publicly traded company, Microsoft is subject to a number of government regulations and reporting requirements. In addition, the company contributes money to a variety of political and social causes through its foundation and other charitable entities.
The company has also been the target of antitrust allegations and monopoly lawsuits. It has been accused of abusing its dominant position in the market for computer software by denying competitors the ability to sell competing products or interoperate with Microsoft’s products. In response to these accusations, Microsoft has restructured its operations and made efforts to improve its corporate governance.
For example, the company has reduced hierarchies and allowed engineers to work more independently. The result has been that the company has regained its reputation as a leader in innovative technology. In particular, the company has been at the forefront of artificial intelligence and is a key competitor to Amazon and Google in the area. The company has also increased its presence in the mobile marketplace with the acquisition of Nokia devices and services. This has been a key initiative of the current CEO, Satya Nadella. He is making it clear that the company plans to remain a major player in the global tech industry for years to come.