Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT, HKEX: 4338) is a multinational computer technology corporation that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of software products for computing devices. Headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA, its most profitable products are the Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software. As of the third quarter of 2009, Microsoft was ranked as the third largest company in the world, following PetroChina and ExxonMobil. It is also one of the largest technological corporations in the world.
The company was founded on April 4, 1975, to develop and sell BASIC interpreters for the Altair 8800. Microsoft rose to dominate the home computer operating system market with MS-DOS in the mid-1980s, followed by the Windows line of operating systems. Many of its products have achieved near-ubiquity in the desktop computer market. One commentator notes that Microsoft's original mission was "a computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software." Microsoft possesses footholds in other markets, with assets such as the MSNBC cable television network and the MSN Internet portal. The company also markets both computer hardware products such as the Microsoft mouse and the Microsoft Natural keyboard, as well as home entertainment products such as the Xbox, Xbox 360, Zune and MSN TV. The company's initial public stock offering (IPO) was in 1986; the ensuing rise of the company's stock price has made four billionaires and an estimated 12,000 millionaires from Microsoft employees.
Throughout its history the company has been the target of criticism, including monopolistic business practices and anti-competitive strategies including refusal to deal and tying. The U.S. Department of Justice and the European Commission, among others, have ruled against Microsoft for antitrust violations.