The Story of Microsoft


Microsoft is a developer of personal-computer software systems and applications. Its products include the Windows operating system and its family of related application programs, the Office productivity suite, the Xbox video game console, the Azure cloud platform, and other hardware and accessories. It also publishes books and multimedia titles, offers e-mail services, and operates research labs around the world. The company is headquartered in Redmond, Washington, United States.

The story of microsoft began in 1975, when two schoolboy friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen converted BASIC, a mainframe computer programming language, for use on the Altair 8800 microcomputer. That same year, International Business Machines (IBM) hired them to produce the essential software, or operating system, for its new line of personal computers. The result was MS-DOS, released in 1981.

Over the years, Microsoft expanded its product lines and built up a large customer base. But the company struggled to find breakthrough innovations and lost market share in desktop computers to competitors like Apple and Linux. In the late 1990s, Microsoft was in a race with rival Intel to provide 64-bit computing capability for PCs, and it suffered from a lack of attention to its online services, which included the Internet Explorer web browser and MSN (Microsoft Network).

By 2014, when Satya Nadella became CEO, many observers had written Microsoft off as a 20th-century phenomenon—rich enough to play defense on its Windows monopoly and too bureaucratic to innovate quickly. But, as signaled by its partnership with OpenAI and its challenge to Google’s search dominance, the company was reviving its culture of innovation.

For example, it sponsored hackathons, in which engineers worked together on all sorts of projects they dreamed up—in a way that was less formal and structured than the usual process. It also focused on what it called “the human element of innovation.” It began by emphasizing the importance of understanding customers, who were not just buying its products but using them in ways that surprised them. It also changed how it measured success. Instead of focusing on sales, a lagging indicator in fast-moving markets, Nadella had his team focus on usage, setting up dashboards that tracked trends over time.

It is also investing in artificial intelligence and other areas that might help it stay relevant to the digital future. And it is working to bring its technology to more people in developing countries. It recently announced that it will work with the government of Cuba to make its products more accessible to people there.

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