Oh Mr. Gates, how the time flies!
Microsoft (then spelled “Micro Soft”) is founded by William “Bill” Gates, a 20-year-old Harvard dropout, and Paul Allen, his 22-year-old school chum. They begin selling its first product, a BASIC programming language interpreter.
Microsoft signs an agreement to build the operating system that became known as MS-DOS for IBM’s new personal computer, which was launched in 1981. Microsoft was allowed to license the operating system to others, spawning an industry of “IBM-compatible” machines dependent on Microsoft software.
February: Paul Allen, ill with Hodgkin’s disease, resigns from active management of the company but remains on the board of directors.
March 13: Microsoft’s stock goes public with an initial price of $21 a share, closing the first day of trading at $28. Revenue for its previous fiscal year (which ended June 1985) $140.4 million.
August: Microsoft introduces earliest version of its “Office” software suite, which includes the popular word processing program “Word”. Today, the company says it has more than 500 million users.
June: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission begins a secret probe focusing on possible collusion between Microsoft and IBM. Microsoft remains under the microscope of regulators for another 18 years.
January: Gates, 32, is named the richest American, with more than $6.5 billion, thanks to his one-third stake in Microsoft.
June: A federal judge rules in favor of Microsoft, ending 63 months of litigation by Apple Computer Inc., which charged that Windows copied the look and feel of its Macintosh computers.
August: After the FTC deadlocks twice on the issue, the Justice Department announces it has taken over the Microsoft investigation, which now focuses on its business practices.
January: Microsoft unveil one of it more celebrated flops, a software companion called “Bob”.
August: Microsoft launches Windows 95 with a marketing blitz five times bigger than any of its previous efforts. Experts say the system offers no technological breakthrough but adds features enjoyed for years by users of the rival Apple system.
Microsoft added to the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Its revenue for the fiscal year ending in June reaches $19.75 billion.
January: Steve Ballmer named to succeed Gates as CEO. Gates remains Chairman.
June: At an event with university students in Tokyo, Gates is asked what more he wanted in life. He promptly replies, “privacy.”
November: Microsoft jumps into the interactive game business with the launch of the Xbox , taking on rivals such as Sony and Nintendo. Its most important day-of-release game, “Halo: Combat Evolved”, is a huge hit, helping to drive Xbox sales, and eventually sells more than 5 million copies
February: Microsoft shares split for the 9th time. One original share is now equal to 288 shares.
June: Gates says he will transition out of a day-to-day role in the company in July 2008. Steve Ballmer is the companies top decision maker; Ray Ozzie steps up to be Chief Software Architect.
January: Microsoft launches “Vista” , the latest version of its ubiquitous Windows operating system software, in 70 countries, and expects it to be installed on over 100 million PCs worldwide. Influential Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg, in his review of Vista, called it a “worthy, but largely unexciting, product.”
January: Ballmer makes a $44.6 billion takeover offer to Yahoo’s board. Yahoo later rejects the offer, setting off a lengthy battle over the future of Yahoo.
March: While still wealthier than many nations, Gates falls to third on the list of Earth’s richest man, behind famed investor Warren Buffet and telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim. Forbes magazine estimates Gates wealth at $58 billion.
June 27: Bill Gates steps down out of a day-to-day role in the company, to focus on philanthropy. He still holds nearly a 9 percent stake in Microsoft, and remains its biggest shareholder. Since 2000, Microsoft’s stock has fallen 52 percent.
(Photos: From Reuters, Microsoft.com, Flickr, Google Finance)