Microsoft Corp. is a Redmond, Wash.-based company that develops and manufactures various products associated with computer hardware and software, consumer electronics, video games and mobile devices.
Some of Microsoft’s best-known products include Windows (the computer operating system), MS Office (a suite of office productivity tools), Xbox (the game console), Bing (an Internet search engine) and MSN (a network of online services that includes email and instant messaging). Other products include Visual Studio (application development software), Exchange Server (email management) and Windows Phone 7 (an operating system for smartphones).
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Founded in 1975 by Paul Allen and Bill Gates, Microsoft’s first product was an interpreter for a microcomputer that would decode BASIC (family of high-level programming languages). Soon after, the company launched Disk Operating System (DOS), a product that firmly established Microsoft as a leading player in the field of computer hardware.
In 1985, Microsoft Windows, an operating system with a graphical user interface, was released. This was a hugely popular product that eventually came to dominate the personal computer market. A few years later, Microsoft Office was released. This suite of office productivity tools contained Word and Excel among other applications. In 1995, the web browser Internet Explorer was introduced. The following year, Microsoft and NBC Universal created a new cable news station called MSNBC.
In 2000, Bill Gates stepped down from the position of CEO of the company. Steve Ballmer, a long-time Microsoft executive and college friend of Gates, took over as CEO. Gates created a new position for himself titled Chief Software Architect.
Soon after, Microsoft entered the game console market with the Xbox. New versions of the Windows operating system have also been launched. Some of these are Windows 95, Windows 7 and Windows Vista. The company also has a line of retail stores that sell computers, consumer electronics and computing software.
Over the years, Microsoft has run into legal issues related to its policy of bundling together multiple applications on its Windows operating system. Critics have accused the company of employing monopolistic and anti-competitive strategies. Both the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Commission have found Microsoft to be in violation of antitrust laws.
As of October 2010, Microsoft employed approximately 89,900 people.
(Text by Lakshmi Jagad)