Rise to Power

How Mi­crosoft rode the per­sonal com­put­ing tsunami to be­come the undis­puted king of the pc Mar­ket

Virtuozity - - Boutique -

Mi­crosoft is one of the best-known brands out there. A multi-bil­lion-dol­lar tech­nol­ogy com­pany, it has helped shape the world of com­put­ers since the 1980s, and though it finds it­self in a less dom­i­nant po­si­tion than it used to en­joy, to­day it is still among the most im­por­tant tech­nol­ogy ven­dors in the field. iron­i­cally, how­ever, Mi­crosoft’s rocky start to the smart­phone era, which be­gan with the re­lease of the iphone, came about be­cause it had dom­i­nated so much of the Pc era. its stated goal of “a com­puter on ev­ery desk in ev­ery home” be­came a re­al­ity, and it is to its founders’ credit that the com­pany came to rule so much of per­sonal com­put­ing.

Mi­crosoft was founded in the 1970s, and was, at first, born to serve the en­ter­prise mar­ket. At work, peo­ple re­lied on type­writ­ers, and if they needed to copy a doc­u­ment, they would likely use a mimeo­graph or car­bon pa­per. few peo­ple had

heard of mi­cro­com­put­ers, but two young com­puter en­thu­si­asts, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, had inkling that PCS could go on to solve enor­mous prob­lems. In 1975, then, Gates and Allen formed a part­ner­ship called Mi­crosoft (a port­man­teau of the words mi­cro­com­puter and soft­ware). Like most start-ups, the com­pany be­gan small, but, in a way that has char­ac­terised sil­i­con val­ley since, it had a huge vi­sion.

Mi­crosoft saw some early suc­cess, win­ning a con­tract with Mi­cro In­stru­men­ta­tion and Teleme­try Sys­tems, which agreed to ship one of its Al­tair com­put­ers with soft­ware de­vel­oped by Gates and Allen. It wasn’t un­til 1980, how­ever, that things re­ally got go­ing. In June, Gates and Allen hired Gates’ for­mer Har­vard class­mate, Steve Ballmer to help run the com­pany. Ballmer would even­tu­ally take over as CEO upon Gates’ res­ig­na­tion in 2000. Back in 1980, how­ever, the young Mi­crosoft was ap­proached by IBM, a well-es­tab­lished tech­nol­ogy com­pany, about a pro­ject co­de­named "Chess."

In re­sponse, Mi­crosoft fo­cused its ef­forts on build­ing a new op­er­at­ing sys­tem for IBM. The team named their new op­er­at­ing sys­tem MS-DOS (Mi­crosoft Disk Op­er­at­ing Sys­tem). When the IBM PC run­ning MS DOS ships in 1981, it in­tro­duces a whole new lan­guage to the gen­eral pub­lic. Typ­ing “C:” and var­i­ous cryp­tic com­mands grad­u­ally be­comes part of daily work. On IBM’S PCS, the op­er­at­ing sys­tem is dubbed IBM PC DOS, how­ever, the deal al­lowed Mi­crosoft to re­tain con­trol over the MS-DOS plat­form.

IBM hadn’t done their home­work on Gates, who used the loop­hole to sell the soft­ware to nu­mer­ous com­pa­nies that were cre­at­ing clones of IBM devices. The likes of Columbia Data Prod­ucts, Ea­gle Com­puter and Com­paq were all soon sell­ing PCS, and they were all run­ning on Mi­crosoft’s op­er­at­ing sys­tem. The ven­dor be­came one of the most

im­por­tant play­ers in the soft­ware in­dus­try.

Re­al­is­ing what they had, Gates and co. saw no rea­son to stop in­no­vat­ing. Af­ter all, DOS was func­tional, but it still led to frus­tra­tions, and the in­dus­try was mov­ing quickly to over­come them. To stay ahead, Mi­crosoft be­gan work on ‘In­ter­face Man­ager’, a new op­er­at­ing sys­tem that would even­tu­ally be­come Win­dows. Rather than typ­ing in MS-DOS com­mands, the new sys­tem al­lowed users to sim­ply point and click their way through screens, or ‘win­dows’. The op­er­at­ing sys­tem was an­nounced in 1983, but de­vel­op­ment is­sues saw the re­lease date get­ting pushed back. It fi­nally shipped in 1985.

There were drop-down menus, scroll bars, icons, and dia­log boxes that make pro­grams eas­ier to learn and use. You were able to switch among sev­eral pro­grams with­out hav­ing to quit and restart each one. Win­dows 1.0 shipped with sev­eral pro­grams, in­clud­ing MS DOS file man­age­ment, Paint, Win­dows Writer, Notepad, Cal­cu­la­tor, and a cal­en­dar, card file, and clock to help users man­age day-to-day ac­tiv­i­ties. There was even a game—re­versi.

In 1987, Mi­crosoft re­leased Win­dows 2.0 with desk­top icons and ex­panded mem­ory. With im­proved graph­ics sup­port, users could now over­lap win­dows, con­trol the screen lay­out, and use key­board short­cuts to speed up their work. Some soft­ware de­vel­op­ers be­gan writ­ing their first Win­dows–based pro­grams for this re­lease. Con­trol Panel also made its first ap­pear­ance in Win­dows 2.0.

By 1988, Mi­crosoft had be­come the world’s largest PC soft­ware com­pany based on sales. Com­put­ers had started to be­come a part of daily life for some of­fice work­ers. How­ever, adop­tion was about to sky­rocket through the next decade.

On May 22, 1990, Mi­crosoft an­nounced Win­dows 3.0, fol­lowed shortly by Win­dows 3.1 in 1992. Taken to­gether, they sold 10 mil­lion copies in their first two years, mak­ing this the most widely used Win­dows op­er­at­ing sys­tem so far. The scale of this suc­cess caused Mi­crosoft to re­vise ear­lier plans. Vir­tual Mem­ory im­proves vis­ual graph­ics. In 1990 Win­dows starts to look like the ver­sions to come.

And 1995 saw the launch of Win­dows 95, sell­ing a record-set­ting 7 mil­lion copies in the first five weeks. It was the most pub­li­cised launch Mi­crosoft had ever taken on. And this was the era of fax/modems, email, the new on­line world, and daz­zling mul­ti­me­dia games and ed­u­ca­tional soft­ware. Win­dows 95 catered to this with built-in In­ter­net sup­port, dial-up net­work­ing, and new plug-and-play ca­pa­bil­i­ties that made it easy to in­stall hard­ware and soft­ware. Win­dows 95 formed the ba­sis for all the sub­se­quent re­leases, fea­tur­ing the ‘Start’ but­ton, and the desk­top view that is now so pop­u­lar. Win­dows 98, 2000, XP and Vista, all build on and re­fine this de­sign lan­guage.

All the while, Mi­crosoft re­mained the dom­i­nant PC soft­ware maker, and as PC sales con­tin­ued to sky­rocket over the first decade of the new mil­len­nium, Mi­crosoft raked in the cash. To­day, Win­dows is eclipsed, mea­sured by in­stall base, only by An­droid, and while Mi­crosoft’s ef­forts on the mo­bile side have fallen flat, it has geared it­self to­wards ser­vices and other types of soft­ware. It may not rule the dig­i­tal uni­verse any­more, but it’s still an im­por­tant player.

Billl Gates founded Mi­crosoft with Paul Allen in 1975.

Steve Ballmer took over as CEO in 2000.

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