Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational software corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services related to computing. The company was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen on April 4, 1975. Microsoft is the world's largest software maker measured by revenues. It is also one of the world's most valuable companies.
Microsoft was established to develop and sell BASIC interpreters for the Altair 8800. It rose to dominate the personal computer operating system market with MS-DOS in the mid-1980s, followed by the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems. The company's 1986 initial public offering, and subsequent rise in its share price, created an estimated three billionaires and 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 PC operating system and office 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 and Xbox 360 consoles, and the upcoming Xbox One console), the digital services market (through MSN), and mobile phones (via the Windows Phone OS). In June 2012, Microsoft announced that it would be entering the PC vendor market for the first time, with the launch of the Microsoft Surface tablet computer.
In the 1990s, critics began to contend that Microsoft used monopolistic business practices and anti-competitive strategies including refusal to deal and tying, put unreasonable restrictions in the use of its software, and used misrepresentative marketing tactics; both the U.S. Department of Justice and European Commission found the company in violation of antitrust laws.
On August 23, 2013, Microsoft announced that its CEO, Steve Ballmer, will retire from the company after a successor is chosen.