Microsoft Corporation are the only microcomputer software company in the world. (This is obviously an exaggeration, but they tend to believe it.) Their name was once hyphenated as "Micro-Soft," but they removed the hyphen when they moved from Albuquerque, NM, to Redmond, WA.
Microsoft started out at the 800 suite of the tower at 300 San Mateo Blvd. NE, just behind the First National Building at the corner of San Mateo and Central in 1975. The company was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. The latter left early, and Gates is still Chairman.
Co-founder Bill Gates was arrested on December 13, 1977, for speeding down Central between Eubank and Juan Tabo, thus resulting in the infamous Gates mugshot. He would've only been fined, if he didn't get combative with the officer stopping him. Gates has been known to spend any amount of money to get his way; for example, he once spent thousands of dollars fighting a no-left-turn ticket he got in Seattle, and he got the ticket thrown out by an obscure technicality about how the sign he disobeyed was mounted. Interestingly, it was that very short-fused attitude and immature determination that drove his company to become the most successful corporation yet.
The very first Microsoft product was a Basic language interpreter for the MITS Altair 8800 desktop computer kit. It required a meager 4 KB of RAM to load and run. However, the Altair came with only 256 bytes, 1/4 KB, of RAM. Thus, Microsoft Basic became the first personal computer application to be deservingly called "bloatware," perhaps Microsoft's only true innovation. Microsoft rectified this by selling RAM expansion boards, but as an omen of things to come, the first two versions didn't work right.
Microsoft have also released a suite of office productivity applications individually: Word, the word processor; Multiplan, the spreadsheet; Excel, the spreadsheet; Powerpoint, the presentation designer; Outlook, the mail and personal information manager; and Access, the personal database designer. Most of these applications are no longer available individually and must be purchased as a bundle, Microsoft Office.
Microsoft Windows is the most widely used operating system, giving Microsoft an effective monopoly on the personal and home computer OS market, but it can be argued (and in fact has been argued) that the Windows monopoly was due almost entirely to Microsoft's strong-arm tactics with OEM PC vendors. After securing a deal with IBM to have Microsoft's Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) preinstalled on the IBM PC, makers of IBM clones also standardized on MS-DOS to remain compatible with IBM PC software. When Microsoft released Windows (which was, until August 1995, a shell for an existing MS-DOS installation) and programmers started standardizing on it, IBM-compatible OEMs standardized on that as well, and they shipped IBM compatible PCs with either MS-DOS, DR-DOS, Microsoft Windows, or IBM OS/2 preinstalled. Microsoft gave OEMs steep discounts for pre-installing Windows on PCs, then they attached conditions to the deal forbidding OEMs from selling any PCs with any other OS installed.
During the Great Browser War, Microsoft extended their monopolization by forbidding OEMs from removing Internet Explorer, or even from providing another Web browser installed side-by-side.
When the World Wide Web took off, in addition to providing the browser, Microsoft offered for sale a Web server: Internet Information Services, or IIS, which was later integrated (but not turned on by default) in Microsoft's business/server editions of Windows.
With Microsoft Windows being the dominant operating system, Microsoft Internet Explorer being the dominant Web browser, and Microsoft Office being the dominant productivity suite, it's hard to imagine that any Microsoft division will fall from the lead anytime soon.
That noted, Microsoft do not have a monopoly on the Web server market, and it's debatable at best whether they have so much as a majority share of the market. Marketshare of IIS has continued to fall as Apache rose. On the other side of the coin, IE continues to lose marketshare to Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Chrome. The biggest risers supplanting Microsoft's products are free and open source software.
Also, while Microsoft's monopolies have made their products high profile targets for exploitation attempts, their history of producing secure and reliable software consistently leaves the world to be desired. While they have developed a software patching mechanism that is intricate and advanced, they have consistently delayed patches and underestimated the severity of the vulnerabilities constantly being found in their products. Worms such as Blaster, Sasser, Slammer, Code Red, and Conficker, all of which spread without any need for user interaction or trickery, serve as a testament to the quality of code that Microsoft have produced.
The failure of Windows Vista in the market and minds of the consumer also casts Microsoft's future into doubt. Unlike their last OS failure, Windows ME, Microsoft don't have a successor version ready, and they were forced to keep its predecessor version alive as a sister version. If Microsoft are to hold their monopoly of the OS market, then the next version of Windows, Seven, must be as big a hit as Windows 95 was.
Update in 2012: Windows 7 was indeed a hit, but Windows 8 is regarded as repeating the mistakes of Windows ME.
One of the few markets that Microsoft have the opportunity to hold on to, interestingly enough, is not a software market at all. Game consoles. If Microsoft can get their act together and shake the Red Ring of Death, then their Xbox family of products have a real chance against the king, Nintendo.
Time will tell. It always does.
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