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History of Microsoft and Its Major Milestones

History of Microsoft and Its Major Milestones


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Microsoft is one of the most successful tech companies in history, with a market capitalization of just over $1 trillion. Its products are used by hundreds of millions of people every day, and its logo is one of the most recognized around the world.

Here, we explore Microsoft's earliest days and answer some of the most commonly asked questions about the company. This article is, however, intended primarily as an overview of the company and not as a comprehensive history.

RELATED: THESE ARE THE FIVE LOGOS MICROSOFT HAS HAD THROUGHOUT THE YEARS

When and where did Microsoft start?

The company that would eventually become Microsoft was first founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1975.

The pair were avid programming enthusiasts from a young age. Building on their existing skills, they were inspired to produce their own programming language, Microsoft BASIC, based on the existing language BASIC.

Taking around eight weeks to compile, the pair of plucky entrepreneurs demonstrated BASIC for Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), the company that built the Altair 8800 microcomputer.

MITS liked what they saw and agreed to distribute and market the product under the name of Altair BASIC. This deal inspired Gates and Allen to found their own software company, and in April of 1975, Microsoft was born.

"When we signed that first contract with MITS, we referred to ourselves as 'Paul Allen and Bill Gates doing business as Micro-Soft.' I don't remember why we spelled it with a hyphen and a capital 'S.' We put a credit line in the source code of our first product that said, 'Micro-Soft BASIC: Bill Gates wrote a lot of stuff; Paul Allen wrote some other stuff.'" - Bill Gates.

From that moment on, Microsoft would continue to grow until it eventually became the tech giant we all know (or love and hate in equal measures) today.

What are some key dates in Microsoft's history?

Providing a comprehensive history of Microsoft is outside the scope of this article, but according to Microsoft, here are some of the key early dates in the company's rise to world domination.

Trust us when we say this list is far from exhaustive.

For a fuller summary of Microsoft's history, we recommend checking out their official webpage.

Date

Event
1975

Microsoft is founded

January 1979

Microsoft moves from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Bellevue, Washington

June 1981

The company is officially incorporated

August 1981

IBM introduces its personal computer, which uses Microsoft’s 16-bit operating system and MS-DOS 1.0.

Late-1985

Windows 1.0 is launched. Effectively an extension of MS-DOS, it was created in reaction to the growing popularity of the early Apple OS.

February 1986

Microsoft moves once again, this time to a corporate campus in Redmond, Washington

March 1986

The company issues its IPO

August 1989

Microsoft introduces the earliest version of the Microsoft Office suite of productivity applications

May 1990

Windows 3.0 is officially launched. It would go on to sell well over 2 million copies.

August 1995

Microsoft officially launches its groundbreaking Windows 95. This is the first truly consumer-focused version of Windows and it would help to define the future of personal computers. It is widely loved and fondly remembered by many users today.

December 1995

Gates outlines Microsoft’s commitment to supporting and enhancing the Internet

June 1998

Microsoft Windows 98 is officially launched. This will become one of Microsoft's most popular operating systems.

January 2000

Steve Ballmer named president and chief executive officer of Microsoft

February 2000

Windows 2000 is launched. For its day, this operating system was extremely good. It had tons of application support and very solid drivers. Many businesses would stick with it for many years, until finally forced to upgrade.

June 2000

Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer outline Microsoft’s .NET strategy for Web services

September 2000Windows Me is launched. The last of the MS-DOS-based Windows operating systems, it is widely considered slower and more unstable than most of the new hardware coming onto the market at the time, with which it was also often incompatible.
May 2001Office XP is officially launched. The precursor to Office 2003, it was widely praised by consumers.
October 2001

Microsoft officially launches Windows XP. Incredibly stable and great for businesses and private users alike, it would dominate the market for many years.

November 2001

Microsoft launches the, now venerable, Xbox game console. A big gamble in a market dominated by Sega, Nintendo, and Sony, the Xbox would none-the-less stand the test of time.

January 2002

Bill Gates outlines Microsoft’s commitment to Trustworthy Computing

April 2003

Microsoft launches Windows Server 2003. A very capable platform, many businesses would continue to use until it was no longer supported.

October 2003

Microsoft launches Microsoft Office System

July 2004

Microsoft announces plans to return up to $75 billion to shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks

November 2005

Microsoft launches the incredibly successful Xbox 360. It would go toe-to-toe with the Sony Playstation 3 (launched in 2006) and hold its own.

July 2006

Microsoft announces a new, US$20 billion tender offer and authorizes an additional stock-repurchase program of up to $20 billion over five years

January 2007

Microsoft launches Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office System to consumers worldwide. The former would be met with mixed reviews, while the latter was widely considered a great upgrade of its trusty forerunner.

February 2008

Microsoft launches Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, and Visual Studio 2008. Incredibly stable, many of these are still in use today

June 2008

Bill Gates transitions from his day-to-day role at Microsoft to spend more time on his work at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

June 2009

Microsoft launches the Bing decision engine

October 2009

Microsoft launches Windows 7, much to the relief of many struggling Windows Vista users. It also opens its first physical store in Scottsdale, Arizona.

June 2010

Microsoft launches the general availability of Office 2010

November 2010

Microsoft launches its Windows Phone 7

November 2010

Microsoft announces the availability of Microsoft Lync

June 2011

Microsoft launches Office 365. This platform would revolutionize the office suite of programs.

October 2011

Microsoft officially acquires Skype

June 2012

Microsoft takes control of Yammer (a social networking service for private communication within organizations)

September 2012

Microsoft launches Windows Server 2012

September 2012

Microsoft launches Visual Studio 2012

October 2012

Employee giving tops US$1 billion. Windows RT is also released along with Windows 10 and Microsoft Surface. They also introduce their new entertainment experience for Xbox.

January 2013

Office 2013 is launched and Office 365 is expanded

February 2013

Microsoft launches Outlook.com for the first time.

May 2013

Microsoft unveils its amazing Xbox One

July 2013

“Microsoft One” reorganization realigns company to enable innovation at great speed, efficiency

September 2013

Microsoft announces decision to acquire Nokia’s devices and services business, and license Nokia’s patents and mapping services

October 2013

Microsoft launches Windows 8.1. It also launches Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2

November 2013

Xbox One officially hits the market

February 2014

Satya Nadella named CEO for Microsoft

March 2014

Microsoft launches Office for iPad

April 2014

The company completes acquisition of Nokia Devices and Services business

June 2014

Microsoft launches Surface Pro 3

September 2014

Minecraft joins Microsoft announcement

November 2014

Microsoft announces Office apps for Android tablets

May 2015

Microsoft releases Surface 3

July 2015

Microsoft launches Windows 10. Stable and fast, it came with a variety of handy features and inbuilt antivirus gear.

September 2015

Microsoft launches Office 2016 -- much to the annoyance of those who'd just familiarized themselves with Office 2010.

October 2015

Microsoft announces Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, Microsoft Band 2, Lumia 950, and Lumia 95 XL. They also open a flagship store in New York City

November 2015

Microsoft expands its physical presence around the world by opening a flagship store in Sydney, Australia

January 2016

Microsoft Philanthropies announces $1 billion in donations, putting Microsoft Cloud to work for the "public good"

June 2016

The company launches SQL Server 2016

July 2016

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is launched

September 2016

Microsoft forms what is now known as the Technology + Research Group

October 2016

Microsoft researchers make a huge technological leap forward when they achieve human parity in conversational speech recognition. They also introduce Surface Studio, Surface Dial, new Surface Book, and Windows 10 Creators Update

December 2016

The company completes its acquisition of LinkedIn

March 2017

Visual Studio 2017 is released. Microsoft Teams rolls out to Office 365 customers worldwide

May 2017

Microsoft introduces new technology for education, including Windows 10 S, new Surface Laptop, and Microsoft Teams for classrooms. IT also announces Windows 10 China Government Edition and the new Surface Pro

June 2017

Surface Laptop and new Surface Pro become available in 25 markets worldwide

September 2017

“Marea,” the highest-capacity subsea cable to cross the Atlantic Ocean is completed in collaboration with Facebook and Telxius

October 2017

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update and Mixed Reality Headsets become available; Surface Book 2 announced

November 2017

Xbox One X launches. Microsoft also announces major renovation works to its Redmond campus.

December 2017

Microsoft breaks ground on a new sustainable Silicon Valley campus

February 2018

Microsoft opens a new campus in Dublin, Ireland

March 2018

The company announces it has made the single largest corporate purchase of solar energy in the U.S., at 315 MW.

May 2018

Microsoft announces Surface Hub 2. They also unveil the Xbox Adaptive Controller

August 2018

Surface Go becomes available

June 2018

The company commences its "Project Natick". This is an initiative to place data centers on the ocean floor to take advantage of its near-limitless cooling capacity

October 2018

GitHub is bought out by Microsoft. On a sadder note, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at the age of 65

July 2018

The company announces they would welcome the regulation of facial recognition technology to protect human rights

January 2019

Microsoft announces a $500 million commitment to advance affordable housing in the Puget Sound region

February 2019

HoloLens 2 is introduced by Microsoft

March 2019The company announces that is banning all "April Fools" pranks by its staff. However, the "Clippy" virtual assistant returns from the dead for a short-lived cameo on GitHub.
May 2019Starbucks partner with Microsoft to create a machine learning app to which can give out customers tailored suggestions for food and drink
July 2019

Microsoft opens yet another flagship store, this time in London. They also invest around US$1 billion in the OpenAI partnership

April 2019The company suffers a massive security breach of its webmail services. This includes their Hotmail and MSN services. On a brighter note, the company becomes one of only a handful to reach a market value of US$1 trillion
October 2019

Microsoft announces the release of five Surface products for late 2019, plus two new dual-screen devices, Surface Neo and Surface Duo, slated for late-2020. They also announce that they want to bring internet access to 40 million people by 2020

December 2019

Xbox Series X is announced with a prospective release date in late-2020

January 2020

Microsoft announces its grand vision of becoming carbon negative by 2030

February 2020

The company announces they would not attend the GDC 2000 conference, due to COVID-19 concerns. Amazon win a court case to block a contract between the U.S. military and Microsoft

March 2020

Microsoft introduces new Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscriptions

June 2020The company announces that it is to close all but a select few of its stores around the world.

How did Bill Gates come up with Microsoft?

In short, he didn't — at least not on his own. The basic (pun intended) idea was mainly Paul Allen's.

In what is now something of a legend, the idea for Microsoft came in a moment of inspiration for Paul Allen. Back in 1975, at the time, Gates was an undergraduate at Harvard University, and Allen worked for Honeywell Inc. as a computer programmer.

Allen, at the time 22-years old, purchased a copy of the January edition of Popular Electronics. On the front cover was an image of the World’s First Minicomputer Kit — the Altair 8800 microcomputer.

Allen read the related article and struck on an idea. With his copy of Popular Electronics in hand, he decided to pay his school-friend Bill Gates a visit.

The two had been friends since their early days at Lakeside School (a private preparatory school in Seattle) and shared a passion for computers and programming. In fact, they had both become accomplished programmers and had been hired in 1971 to write a payroll program for Information Sciences, Inc. on behalf of COBOL.

Allen made his pitch to Gates. His idea was to adapt the Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code (BASIC) for the Altair 8800.

Gates was impressed and liked the idea. He was also persuaded by Allen to leave Harvard to pursue their business idea.

At that time, microcomputers like the Altair 8800 executed source code provided by the machine's compiler, but lacked an interpreter. Paul Allen proposed using BASIC to develop such an interpreter.

If successful, this BASIC-based interpreter would make machines like the 8800 very appealing to hobbyists and professional programmers around the world. Allen believed it would also enable the cost of microcomputers to fall dramatically, making software development a viable business on a larger scale.

With their pitch and interpreter prototype completed, the pair approached MITS to give an in-person demonstration. Ed Roberts, the founder of MITS, agreed to the meeting, loved what he saw, and agreed to distribute a new machine which included their software - Altair BASIC.

In February of 1975, Allen and Gates sold their code to MITS for $3,000 (around $14,000 today), plus a percentage of royalty payments (worth around $840,000 today).

The same year "Micro-Soft" was officially registered as a company. The rest, as they say, is history.

Where did the Name Microsoft come from?

Back in 1975, Gates and Allen had mused over a few possible names for their new venture.

"We had talked about a lot of different names back in Boston, and at some point, I said, 'Well, the totally obvious name would be [Micro-Soft].'" - Paul Allen.

But there were other options on the table.

"We also had mentioned names like Outcorporated Inc. and Unlimited Ltd., but we were, you know, joking around. We talked a lot about whether we should call it Allen & Gates, but decided that was not a good idea." - Bill Gates.

But the name "Micro-Soft" stuck. It was created by Allen as a portmanteau of "microcomputer" and "software."

After officially forming a company, the pair would later open their first international office in Japan, called ASCII Microsoft, in 1977.

Two years later, in 1979, the company relocated to Bellevue, Washington, and eventually incorporated as Microsoft Inc. in 1981.

Bill Gates would take on the role of President of the company and Chairman of the Board, and Paul Allen became the company's Executive Vice President.

So, there we go.

Today, Microsoft has grown to be a world leader in the tech industry. From humble beginnings in the 1970s, hard work and attention to detail would create one of the most successful companies of all time.


Watch the video: History of Microsoft 1975-2017 (May 2022).