Front lobby entrance of building 17, one of the largest buildings on Microsoft's main campus, Redmond
|Founded||Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S. (April 4, 1975 )|
|Founders||Bill Gates, Paul Allen|
|Headquarters||Microsoft Redmond Campus, Redmond, Washington, U.S.|
|Revenue||US$ 86.83 billion (2014)|
|Operating income||US$ 27.76 billion (2014)|
|Net income||US$ 22.07 billion (2014)|
|Total assets||US$ 172.38 billion (2014)|
|Total equity||US$ 89.78 billion (2014)|
|Employees||128,076 (June 2014)|
|Subsidiaries||List of Microsoft subsidiaries|
Footnotes / references
Microsoft Corporation or  is an American multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, that develops, manufactures, licenses, supports and sells computer software, consumer electronics and personal computers and services. Its best known software products are the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems, Microsoft Office office suite, and Internet Explorer web browser. Its flagship hardware products are the Xbox game consoles and the Microsoft Surface tablet lineup. It is the world's largest software maker measured by revenues. It is also one of the world's most valuable companies.
Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen on April 4, 1975, to develop and sell BASIC interpreters for Altair 8800. It rose to dominate the personal computer operating system market with MS-DOS in the mid-1980s, followed by Microsoft Windows. The company's 1986 initial public offering, and subsequent rise in its share price, created three billionaires and an estimated 12,000 millionaires from Microsoft employees. Since the 1990s, it has increasingly diversified from the operating system market and has made a number of corporate acquisitions. In May 2011, Microsoft acquired Skype Technologies for $8.5 billion in its largest acquisition to date.
As of 2013, Microsoft is market dominant in both the IBM PC-compatible operating system and office software suite markets (the latter with Microsoft Office). The company also produces a wide range of other software for desktops and servers, and is active in areas including Internet search (with Bing), the video game industry (with the Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One consoles), the digital services market (through MSN), and mobile phones (via the Windows Phone OS). In June 2012, Microsoft entered the personal computer production market for the first time, with the launch of the Microsoft Surface, a line of tablet computers.
With the acquisition of Nokia's devices and services division to form Microsoft Mobile Oy, the company will re-enter the smartphone hardware market, after its previous attempt, Microsoft Kin, which resulted from their acquisition of Danger Inc.
- 1972–83: Founding and company beginnings 1.1
- 1984–94: Windows and Office 1.2
- 1995–2005: Internet and the 32-bit era 1.3
- 2006–10: Windows Vista, mobile, and Windows 7 1.4
- 2011–present: Rebranding, Windows 8, Surface and Nokia devices 1.5
- Windows Division, Server and Tools, Online Services Division 2.1
- Business Division 2.2
- Entertainment and Devices Division 2.3
- Culture 3
- Criticism 4
Corporate affairs 5
- Financial 5.1
- Environment 5.2
- Marketing 5.3
- Lay off 5.4
- Cooperation with the United States Government 5.5
- Logo 5.6
- See also 6
- References 7
- External links 8
1972–83: Founding and company beginnings
Paul Allen and Bill Gates, childhood friends with a passion in computer programming, were seeking to make a successful business utilizing their shared skills. In 1972 they founded their first company named Traf-O-Data, which offered a rudimentary computer that tracked and analyzed automobile traffic data. Allen went on to pursue a degree in computer science at the University of Washington, later dropping out of school to work at Honeywell. Gates began studies at Harvard. The January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics featured Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems's (MITS) Altair 8800 microcomputer. Allen suggested that they could program a BASIC interpreter for the device; after a call from Gates claiming to have a working interpreter, MITS requested a demonstration. Since they didn't actually have one, Allen worked on a simulator for the Altair while Gates developed the interpreter. Although they developed the interpreter on a simulator and not the actual device, the interpreter worked flawlessly when they demonstrated the interpreter to MITS in Albuquerque, New Mexico in March 1975; MITS agreed to distribute it, marketing it as Altair BASIC.:108, 112–114 They officially established Microsoft on April 4, 1975, with Gates as the CEO. Allen came up with the original name of "Micro-Soft," the combination of the words microprocessor and software, as recounted in a 1995 Fortune magazine article. In August 1977 the company formed an agreement with ASCII Magazine in Japan, resulting in its first international office, "ASCII Microsoft". The company moved to a new home in Bellevue, Washington in January 1979.
Microsoft entered the OS business in 1980 with its own version of Unix, called Xenix. However, it was MS-DOS that solidified the company's dominance. After negotiations with Digital Research failed, IBM awarded a contract to Microsoft in November 1980 to provide a version of the CP/M OS, which was set to be used in the upcoming IBM Personal Computer (IBM PC). For this deal, Microsoft purchased a CP/M clone called 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products, branding it as MS-DOS, which IBM rebranded to PC DOS. Following the release of the IBM PC in August 1981, Microsoft retained ownership of MS-DOS. Since IBM copyrighted the IBM PC BIOS, other companies had to reverse engineer it in order for non-IBM hardware to run as IBM PC compatibles, but no such restriction applied to the operating systems. Due to various factors, such as MS-DOS's available software selection, Microsoft eventually became the leading PC operating systems vendor.:210 The company expanded into new markets with the release of the Microsoft Mouse in 1983, as well as a publishing division named Microsoft Press.:232 Paul Allen resigned from Microsoft in February after developing Hodgkin's disease.:231
1984–94: Windows and Office
While jointly developing a new OS with IBM in 1984, OS/2, Microsoft released Microsoft Windows, a graphical extension for MS-DOS, on November 20, 1985.:242–243, 246 Microsoft moved its headquarters to Redmond on February 26, 1986, and on March 13 the company went public; the ensuing rise in the stock would make an estimated four billionaires and 12,000 millionaires from Microsoft employees. Due to the partnership with IBM, in 1990 the Federal Trade Commission set its eye on Microsoft for possible collusion; it marked the beginning of over a decade of legal clashes with the U.S. Government. Microsoft released its version of OS/2 to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on April 2, 1987;:243–244 meanwhile, the company was at work on a 32-bit OS, Microsoft Windows NT, using ideas from OS/2; it shipped on July 21, 1993, with a new modular kernel and the Win32 application programming interface (API), making porting from 16-bit (MS-DOS-based) Windows easier. Once Microsoft informed IBM of NT, the OS/2 partnership deteriorated.
In 1990, Microsoft introduced its office suite, Microsoft Office. The software bundled separate office productivity applications, such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel.:301 On May 22 Microsoft launched Windows 3.0 with a streamlined user interface graphics and improved protected mode capability for the Intel 386 processor. Both Office and Windows became dominant in their respective areas. Novell, a Word competitor from 1984–1986, filed a lawsuit years later claiming that Microsoft left part of its APIs undocumented in order to gain a competitive advantage.
On July 27, 1994, the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division filed a Competitive Impact Statement that said, in part: "Beginning in 1988, and continuing until July 15, 1994, Microsoft induced many OEMs to execute anti-competitive "per processor" licenses. Under a per processor license, an OEM pays Microsoft a royalty for each computer it sells containing a particular microprocessor, whether the OEM sells the computer with a Microsoft operating system or a non-Microsoft operating system. In effect, the royalty payment to Microsoft when no Microsoft product is being used acts as a penalty, or tax, on the OEM's use of a competing PC operating system. Since 1988, Microsoft's use of per processor licenses has increased."
1995–2005: Internet and the 32-bit era
Following Bill Gates's internal "Internet Tidal Wave memo" on May 26, 1995, Microsoft began to redefine its offerings and expand its product line into computer networking and the World Wide Web. The company released Windows 95 on August 24, 1995, featuring pre-emptive multitasking, a completely new user interface with a novel start button, and 32-bit compatibility; similar to NT, it provided the Win32 API.:20 Windows 95 came bundled with the online service MSN, and for OEMs Internet Explorer, a web browser. Internet Explorer was not bundled with the retail Windows 95 boxes because the boxes were printed before the team finished the web browser, and instead was included in the Windows 95 Plus! pack. Branching out into new markets in 1996, Microsoft and NBC Universal created a new 24/7 cable news station, MSNBC. Microsoft created Windows CE 1.0, a new OS designed for devices with low memory and other constraints, such as personal digital assistants. In October 1997, the Justice Department filed a motion in the Federal District Court, stating that Microsoft violated an agreement signed in 1994 and asked the court to stop the bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows.:323–324
Bill Gates handed over the CEO position on January 13, 2000, to Steve Ballmer, an old college friend of Gates and employee of the company since 1980, creating a new position for himself as Chief Software Architect.:111, 228 Various companies including Microsoft formed the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance in October 1999 to, among other things, increase security and protect intellectual property through identifying changes in hardware and software. Critics decry the alliance as a way to enforce indiscriminate restrictions over how consumers use software, and over how computers behave, a form of digital rights management; for example the scenario where a computer is not only secured for its owner, but also secured against its owner as well. On April 3, 2000, a judgment was handed down in the case of United States v. Microsoft, calling the company an "abusive monopoly"; it settled with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2004. On October 25, 2001, Microsoft released Windows XP, unifying the mainstream and NT lines under the NT codebase. The company released the Xbox later that year, entering the game console market dominated by Sony and Nintendo. In March 2004 the European Union brought antitrust legal action against the company, citing it abused its dominance with the Windows OS, resulting in a judgment of €497 million ($613 million) and to produce new versions of Windows XP without Windows Media Player, Windows XP Home Edition N and Windows XP Professional N.
2006–10: Windows Vista, mobile, and Windows 7
Released in January 2007, the next version of Windows, Windows Vista, focused on features, security, and a redesigned user interface dubbed Aero. Microsoft Office 2007, released at the same time, featured a "Ribbon" user interface which was a significant departure from its predecessors. Relatively strong sales of both titles helped to produce a record profit in 2007. The European Union imposed another fine of €899 million ($1.4 billion) for Microsoft's lack of compliance with the March 2004 judgment on February 27, 2008, saying that the company charged rivals unreasonable prices for key information about its workgroup and backoffice servers. Microsoft stated that it was in compliance and that "these fines are about the past issues that have been resolved".
2007 also saw the creation of a multi-core unit at Microsoft, as they followed in the steps of server companies such as Sun and IBM.
Bill Gates retired from his role as Chief Software Architect on June 27, 2008, while retaining other positions related to the company in addition to being an advisor for the company on key projects. Azure Services Platform, the company's entry into the cloud computing market for Windows, launched on October 27, 2008. On February 12, 2009, Microsoft announced its intent to open a chain of Microsoft-branded retail stores, and on October 22, 2009, the first retail Microsoft Store opened in Scottsdale, Arizona; the same day the first store opened, Windows 7 was officially released to the public. Windows 7's focus was on refining Vista with ease of use features and performance enhancements, rather than a large reworking of Windows.
As the smartphone industry boomed beginning in 2007, Microsoft struggled to keep up with its rivals Apple and Google in providing a modern smartphone operating system. As a result, in 2010, Microsoft revamped their aging flagship mobile operating system, Windows Mobile, replacing it with the new Windows Phone OS; along with a new strategy in the smartphone industry that has Microsoft working more closely with smartphone manufacturers, such as Nokia, and to provide a consistent user experience across all smartphones using Microsoft's Windows Phone OS. It used a new user interface design language, codenamed "Metro", which prominently used simple shapes, typography and iconography, and the concept of minimalism.
Microsoft is a founding member of the cloud computing initiative called Software-Defined Networking. The initiative is meant to speed innovation through simple software changes in telecommunications networks, wireless networks, data centers and other networking areas.
2011–present: Rebranding, Windows 8, Surface and Nokia devices
Following the release of Windows Phone, Microsoft underwent a gradual rebranding of its product range throughout 2011 and 2012—the corporation's logos, products, services, and websites adopted the principles and concepts of the Metro design language. Microsoft previewed Windows 8, an operating system designed to power both personal computers and tablet computers, in Taipei in June 2011. A developer preview was released on September 13, and was replaced by a consumer preview on February 29, 2012. On May 31, 2012, the preview version was released.
On June 18, 2012, Microsoft unveiled the Surface, the first computer in the company's history to have its hardware made by Microsoft. On June 25, Microsoft paid US$1.2 billion to buy the social network Yammer. On July 31, 2012, Microsoft launched the Outlook.com webmail service to compete with Gmail. On September 4, 2012, Microsoft released Windows Server 2012. On October 1, Microsoft announced its intention to launch a news operation, part of a new-look MSN, at the time of the Windows 8 launch that was later in the month. On October 26, 2012, Microsoft launched Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface. Three days later, Windows Phone 8 was launched. To cope with the potential for an increase in demand for products and services, Microsoft opened a number of "holiday stores" across the U.S. to complement the increasing number of "bricks-and-mortar" Microsoft Stores that opened in 2012.
On March 29, 2013, Microsoft launched a Patent Tracker. The Kinect, the motion sensing input devices by Microsoft, which was first introduced in November 2010 was upgraded for the 2013 release of the eighth-generation Xbox One. Its capabilities were revealed in May 2013. The new Kinect uses an ultra-wide 1080p camera, it can function in the dark due to an infrared sensor, it employs higher-end processing power and new software, it can distinguish between fine movements (such as a thumb movements), and the device can determine a user's heart rate by looking at his/her face. Microsoft filed a patent application in 2011 that suggests that the corporation may use the Kinect camera system to monitor the behavior of television viewers as part of a plan to make the viewing experience more active. On July 19, 2013, Microsoft stocks suffered its biggest one-day percentage sell-off since the year 2000 after its fourth-quarter report raised concerns among the investors on the poor showings of both Windows 8 and the Surface tablet; with more than 11 percentage points declining Microsoft suffered a loss of more than US$32 billion. For the 2010 fiscal year, Microsoft had five product divisions: Windows Division, Server and Tools, Online Services Division, Microsoft Business Division, and Entertainment and Devices Division.
Xbox One console
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) was launched in October 2013 and Microsoft is part of the coalition of public and private organizations that also includes Facebook, Intel and Google. Led by Tim Berners-Lee, the A4AI seeks to make Internet access more affordable so that access is broadened in the developing world, where only 31% of people are online. Google will help to decrease internet access prices so that they fall below the UN Broadband Commission's worldwide target of 5% of monthly income.
In line with the maturing PC business, in July 2013 Microsoft announced that it would reorganize the business into 4 new business divisions by function: Operating System, Apps, Cloud and Devices. All previous divisions will be diluted into new divisions without any workforce cut.
On February 4, 2014, Steve Ballmer stepped down as CEO of Microsoft and was succeeded by Satya Nadella, who previously led Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise division. On the same day, John W. Thompson took on the role of chairman, with Bill Gates stepping down from the position to become more active within the company as Technology Advisor.
On April 25, 2014, Microsoft acquired Nokia Devices and Services and formed a new subsidiary, Microsoft Mobile Oy.
Windows Division, Server and Tools, Online Services Division
The company's Client division produces the flagship Windows OS line such as Windows 8; it also produces the Windows Live family of products and services. Server and Tools produces the server versions of Windows, such as Windows Server 2008 R2 as well as a set of development tools called Microsoft Visual Studio, Microsoft Silverlight, a web application framework, and System Center Configuration Manager, a collection of tools providing remote-control abilities, patch management, software distribution and a hardware/software inventory. Other server products include: Microsoft SQL Server, a relational database management system, Microsoft Exchange Server, for certain business-oriented e-mail and scheduling features, Small Business Server, for messaging and other small business-oriented features; and Microsoft BizTalk Server, for business process management.
Microsoft provides IT consulting ("Microsoft Consulting Services") and produces a set of certification programs handled by the Server and Tools division designed to recognize individuals who have a minimal set of proficiencies in a specific role; this includes developers ("Microsoft Certified Solution Developer"), system/network analysts ("Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer"), trainers ("Microsoft Certified Trainers") and administrators ("Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator" and "Microsoft Certified Database Administrator"). Microsoft Press, which publishes books, is also managed by the division. The Online Services Business division handles the online service MSN and the search engine Bing. As of December 2009, the company also possesses an 18% ownership of the cable news channel MSNBC without any editorial control; however, the division develops the channel's website, msnbc.com, in a joint venture with the channel's co-owner, NBC Universal.
The Microsoft Business Division produces
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- 1987 – Microsoft "Pac-Man" logo, designed by Scott Baker and used from 1987 to 2012 with the 1994–2002 slogan "Where do you want to go today?".
- 2006–2011 – Microsoft logo as of 2006–2011, with the slogan "Your potential. Our passion."
- 2011–2012 – Logo by Microsoft with the slogan "Be what's next."
- 2012–present – Introduced on August 23, 2012, to symbolize the "world of digital motion" and Microsoft's "diverse portfolio of products".
On August 23, 2012, Microsoft unveiled a new corporate logo at the opening of its 23rd Microsoft store in Boston indicating the company's shift of focus from the classic style to the tile-centric modern interface which it uses/will use on the Windows Phone platform, Xbox 360, Windows 8 and the upcoming Office Suites. The new logo also includes four squares with the colors of the then-current Windows logo which have been used to represent Microsoft's four major products: Windows (blue), Office (red), Xbox (green), and Bing (yellow). However this logo is not completely new—it was featured in Windows 95 commercials from the mid-1990s.
Microsoft adopted the so-called "Pac-Man Logo", designed by Scott Baker, in 1987. Baker stated "The new logo, in Helvetica italic typeface, has a slash between the o and s to emphasize the "soft" part of the name and convey motion and speed." Dave Norris ran an internal joke campaign to save the old logo, which was green, in all uppercase, and featured a fanciful letter O, nicknamed the blibbet, but it was discarded. Microsoft's logo with the "Your potential. Our passion." tagline below the main corporate name, is based on a slogan Microsoft used in 2008. In 2002, the company started using the logo in the United States and eventually started a TV campaign with the slogan, changed from the previous tagline of "Where do you want to go today?". During the private MGX (Microsoft Global Exchange) conference in 2010, Microsoft unveiled the company's next tagline, "Be What's Next.".
Microsoft has argued that the United States Congress should enact strong privacy regulations to protect consumer data.
During the first six months in 2013, Microsoft had received requests that affected between 15,000 and 15,999 accounts.
We provide customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so, and never on a voluntary basis. In addition we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers. If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data, we don't participate in it.
Following media reports about PRISM, NSA's massive electronic surveillance program, in May 2013, several technology companies were identified as participants, including Microsoft. According to leaks of said program, Microsoft joined the PRISM program in 2007. However, in June 2013, an official statement from Microsoft flatly denied their participation in the program:
Microsoft provides information about reported bugs in their software to intelligence agencies of the United States government, prior to the public release of the fix. A Microsoft spokesperson has stated that the corporation runs several programs that facilitate the sharing of such information with the U.S. government.
Cooperation with the United States Government
In October 2014, Microsoft revealed that it was almost done with the elimination of 18,000 employees which is its largest ever layoff sweep.
In September 2014, Microsoft laid off 2,100 people, including 747 people in the Seattle-Redmond area, where the company is headquartered. The firings came as a second wave of the layoffs that were previously announced. This brings the total number to over 15,000 out of the 18,000 expected cuts.
In July 2014, Microsoft announced plans to lay off 18,000 employees. Microsoft employed 127,104 people as of June 5, 2014, making this about a 14 percent reduction of its workforce as the biggest Microsoft lay off ever. It will include 12,500 professional and factory personnel. Previously, Microsoft has laid off 5,800 jobs in 2009 in line with US financial crisis.
In 2012, Microsoft hired a political pollster named Mark Penn, whom the New York Times called "famous for bulldozing" his political opponents  as Executive Vice-President, Advertising and Strategy. Penn created a series of negative ads targeting one of Microsoft's chief competitors, Google. The ads, called "Scroogled", attempt to make the case that Google is "screwing" consumers with search results rigged to favor Google's paid advertisers, that Gmail violates the privacy of its users to place ad results related to the content of their emails and shopping results which favor Google products. Tech publications like Tech Crunch have been highly critical of the ad campaign, while Google employees have embraced it.
As part of the "Get the Facts" campaign, Microsoft highlighted the .NET trading platform that it had developed in partnership with Accenture for the London Stock Exchange, claiming that it provided "five nines" reliability. After suffering extended downtime and unreliability the LSE announced in 2009 that it was planning to drop its Microsoft solution and switch to a Linux based one in 2010.
In 2004, Microsoft commissioned research firms to do independent studies comparing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of Windows Server 2003 to Linux; the firms concluded that companies found Windows easier to administrate than Linux, thus those using Windows would administrate faster resulting in lower costs for their company (i.e. lower TCO). This spurred a wave of related studies; a study by the Yankee Group concluded that upgrading from one version of Windows Server to another costs a fraction of the switching costs from Windows Server to Linux, although companies surveyed noted the increased security and reliability of Linux servers and concern about being locked into using Microsoft products. Another study, released by the Open Source Development Labs, claimed that the Microsoft studies were "simply outdated and one-sided" and their survey concluded that the TCO of Linux was lower due to Linux administrators managing more servers on average and other reasons.
Microsoft was ranked number 1 in the list of the World's Best Multinational Workplaces by the Great Place to Work Institute in 2011.
Microsoft makes use of alternative forms of transit. It created one of the world's largest private bus systems, the "Connector", to transport people from outside the company; for on-campus transportation, the "Shuttle Connect" uses a large fleet of hybrid cars to save fuel. The company also subsidises regional public transport as an incentive. In February 2010 however, Microsoft took a stance against adding additional public transport and high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to a bridge connecting Redmond to Seattle; the company did not want to delay the construction any further.
Microsoft's main U.S. campus received a silver certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program in 2008, and it installed over 2,000 solar panels on top of its buildings in its Silicon Valley campus, generating approximately 15 percent of the total energy needed by the facilities in April 2005.
Microsoft is ranked on the 17th place in Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics (16th Edition) that ranks 18 electronics manufacturers according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change. Microsoft's timeline for phasing out BFRs and phthalates in all products is 2012 but its commitment to phasing out PVC is not clear. As yet (January 2011) it has no products that are completely free from PVC and BFRs.
In 2011, Greenpeace released a report rating the top ten big brands in cloud computing on their sources of electricity for their data centers. At the time, data centers consumed up to 2% of all global electricity and this amount was projected to increase. Phil Radford of Greenpeace said "we are concerned that this new explosion in electricity use could lock us into old, polluting energy sources instead of the clean energy available today," and called on "Amazon, Microsoft and other leaders of the information-technology industry must embrace clean energy to power their cloud-based data centers." In 2013, Microsoft agreed to buy power generated by a Texas wind project to power one of its data centers.
On November 14, 2014, Microsoft overtook Exxon Mobil to become the 2nd most valuable company by market capitalization, behind only Apple Inc. Its total market value was over $410B - with the stock price hitting $50.04 a share, the highest since early 2000.
As of January 2014, Microsoft's market capitalization stood at $314B, making it the 8th largest company in the world by market capitalization.
On July 20, 2012, Microsoft posted its first quarterly loss ever, despite earning record revenues for the quarter and fiscal year, with a net loss of $492 million due to a writedown related to the advertising company aQuantive, which had been acquired for $6.2 billion back in 2007.
Microsoft's Online Services Division has been continuously loss-making since 2006 and in Q1 2011 it lost $726 million. This follows a loss of $2.5 billion for the year 2010.
For the first time in 20 years Apple Inc. surpassed Microsoft in Q1 2011 quarterly profits and revenues due to a slowdown in PC sales and continuing huge losses in Microsoft's Online Services Division (which contains its search engine Bing). Microsoft profits were $5.2 billion, while Apple Inc. profits were $6 billion, on revenues of $14.5 billion and $24.7 billion respectively.
Standard and Poor's and Moody's have both given a AAA rating to Microsoft, whose assets were valued at $41 billion as compared to only $8.5 billion in unsecured debt. Consequently, in February 2011 Microsoft released a corporate bond amounting to $2.25 billion with relatively low borrowing rates compared to government bonds.
One of Microsoft's business tactics, described by an executive as "embrace, extend and extinguish," initially embraces a competing standard or product, then extends it to produce their own version which is then incompatible with the standard, which in time extinguishes competition that does not or cannot use Microsoft's new version. Various companies and governments sue Microsoft over this set of tactics, resulting in billions of dollars in rulings against the company. Microsoft claims that the original strategy is not anti-competitive, but rather an exercise of its discretion to implement features it believes customers want.
When Microsoft went public and launched its initial public offering (IPO) in 1986, the opening stock price was $21; after the trading day, the price closed at $27.75. As of July 2010, with the company's nine stock splits, any IPO shares would be multiplied by 288; if one was to buy the IPO today given the splits and other factors, it would cost about 9 cents.:235–236 The stock price peaked in 1999 at around $119 ($60.928 adjusting for splits). The company began to offer a dividend on January 16, 2003, starting at eight cents per share for the fiscal year followed by a dividend of sixteen cents per share the subsequent year, switching from yearly to quarterly dividends in 2005 with eight cents a share per quarter and a special one-time payout of three dollars per share for the second quarter of the fiscal year. Though the company had subsequent increases in dividend payouts, the price of Microsoft's stock remained steady for years.
The company is run by a board of directors made up of mostly company outsiders, as is customary for publicly traded companies. Members of the board of directors as of September 2014 are: John W. Thompson, Dina Dublon, Bill Gates, Maria Klawe, David Marquardt, Mason Morfit, Satya Nadella, Charles Noski, Helmut Panke and John W. Stanton. Board members are elected every year at the annual shareholders' meeting using a majority vote system. There are five committees within the board which oversee more specific matters. These committees include the Audit Committee, which handles accounting issues with the company including auditing and reporting; the Compensation Committee, which approves compensation for the CEO and other employees of the company; the Finance Committee, which handles financial matters such as proposing mergers and acquisitions; the Governance and Nominating Committee, which handles various corporate matters including nomination of the board; and the Antitrust Compliance Committee, which attempts to prevent company practices from violating antitrust laws.
Microsoft has been criticized (along with Yahoo, AOL, Google and others) for its involvement in censorship in the People's Republic of China. Microsoft has also come under criticism for outsourcing jobs to China and India. There were reports of poor working conditions at a factory in southern China that makes some of Microsoft's products.
The company has been in numerous lawsuits by several governments and other companies for unlawful monopolistic practices. In 2004, the European Union found Microsoft guilty in a highly publicized anti-trust case. Additionally, Microsoft's EULA for some of its programs is often criticized as being too restrictive as well as being against open source software.
Criticism of Microsoft has followed the company's existence because of various aspects of its products and business practices. Ease of use, stability, and security of the company's software are common targets for critics. More recently, Trojan horses and other exploits have plagued numerous users due to faults in the security of Microsoft Windows and other programs. Microsoft is also accused of locking vendors into their products, and not following and complying with existing standards in its software. Total cost of ownership comparisons of Linux as well as OS X to Windows are a continuous point of debate.
Microsoft is an outspoken opponent of the cap on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) employees, rated Microsoft as 87% from 2002 to 2004 and as 100% from 2005 to 2010 after they allowed gender expression.
Technical reference for developers and articles for various Microsoft magazines such as Microsoft Systems Journal (MSJ) are available through the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN). MSDN also offers subscriptions for companies and individuals, and the more expensive subscriptions usually offer access to pre-release beta versions of Microsoft software. In April 2004 Microsoft launched a community site for developers and users, titled Channel 9, that provides a wiki and an Internet forum. Another community site that provides daily videocasts and other services, On10.net, launched on March 3, 2006. Free technical support is traditionally provided through online Usenet newsgroups, and CompuServe in the past, monitored by Microsoft employees; there can be several newsgroups for a single product. Helpful people can be elected by peers or Microsoft employees for Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) status, which entitles them to a sort of special social status and possibilities for awards and other benefits.
The Entertainment and Devices Division produces the Windows CE OS for embedded systems and Windows Phone for smartphones. Microsoft initially entered the mobile market through Windows CE for handheld devices, eventually developing into the Windows Mobile OS and now, Windows Phone. Windows CE is designed for devices where the OS may not directly be visible to the end user, in particular, appliances and cars. The division also produces computer games, via its in-house game publisher Microsoft Studios, that run on Windows PCs and other systems including titles such as Age of Empires, Halo and the Microsoft Flight Simulator series, and houses the Macintosh Business Unit which produces Mac OS software including Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac. Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division designs, markets, and manufactures consumer electronics including the Xbox 360 game console, the handheld Zune media player, and the television-based Internet appliance MSN TV. Microsoft also markets personal computer hardware including mice, keyboards, and various game controllers such as joysticks and gamepads.