The Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT, HKSE: 4338) is a multinational computer technology corporation with 2005 global annual sales of US$39.79 billion and 71,553 employees in 102 countries and regions as of July 2006. It develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of software products for computing devices. Headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA, its most popular products are the Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software, each of which has achieved near-ubiquity in the desktop computer market. Microsoft possesses footholds in other markets, with assets such as the MSNBC cable television network, the MSN Internet portal, and the Microsoft Encarta multimedia encyclopedia. The company also markets both computer hardware products such as the Microsoft mouse as well as home entertainment products such as the Xbox, Xbox 360 and MSN TV.
Microsoft's name, originally bi-capitalized as MicroSoft or with hyphenation as Micro-Soft, is a portmanteau of "microcomputer software" and is often abbreviated informally as MS. The company was founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 4, 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen to develop and sell BASIC interpreters for the Altair 8800. After the market saw a flood of IBM PC clones in the mid-1980s, Microsoft used its new position, which it gained in part due to a contract from IBM, to dominate the home computer operating system market with MS-DOS. The company later released an initial public offering (IPO) in the stock market, which netted several of its employees millions of dollars due to the ensuing rise of the stock price. The price of the stock continued its rise steadily into the early 2000s. In Microsoft Windows, originally an add-on for MS-DOS, the company was selling what would become the most widely used operating system in the world; Microsoft continued to push into multiple markets, such as computer hardware and television. In addition, Microsoft has historically given customer support over Usenet newsgroups and the World Wide Web, and awards Microsoft MVP status to volunteers who are deemed helpful in assisting the company's customers.
With what is generally described as a developer-centric business culture, Microsoft has become widely known for some of its internal codes of conduct for its employees. One example is the "eat your own dog food" mantra, which describes the practice of using pre-release products inside the company to test them in an environment geared towards the real world. Microsoft has been convicted of monopolistic business practices—the U.S. Justice Department, among others, has sued Microsoft for antitrust violations and software bundling. The slogan "embrace, extend, and extinguish" is often used to describe Microsoft's strategy for entering product categories involving widely-used standards, extending those standards with proprietary capabilities, and then using those differences to disadvantage its competitors. In addition, Microsoft has been criticized for the insecurity of its software. However, Microsoft has won several awards, such as the "1993 Most Innovative Company Operating in the U.S." by Fortune magazine, as well as maintaining a place on the Fortune 500 list of companies as of 2006.