Paul Bechtel Mrs. Corbett 11/11/11 4th Senior Project Paper When computers were first invented it was unthinkable that they would ever come intowidespread use. They were enormous, loud, temperamental, extremely expensive, and on top ofall this, totally unnecessary in the life of a typical person. These issues made it obvious to anyonepaying attention that computers would forever be relegated to the scientific and mathematicalworlds, totally cut off from the mainstream consumer, but, as the technology was slowlyupgraded, people started seeing more and more computers, first in military installations, then ingovernment buildings, and even in their own offices. As in any new economic field, manycompanies began to stake out claims in the rapidly developing computer industry. One of theseearly adopters was a programming company that worked with the giant of the time, IBM, tomake one of the first commonly seen desktop computers, this company was called Microsoft,and its impact on the world of computers has become legendary. In the beginning, Microsoft was a dream shared by two childhood friends, Bill Gates andPaul Allen. They had been united by a love of computers and computer programming for manyyears, and in 1975, they got a chance to put this passion into effect. They read about a newcomputer design coming onto the market known as a microcomputer. After looking at thedevice’s specifications and design they realized something, they could improve it. The
microcomputer had a massive flaw, it couldn’t read any programs made in the BASICprogramming language, this language was one of the top three most used programming formatsat the time, and if the microcomputer didn’t support it then it could easily fail when released onthe market. Both Gates and Allen were intimately familiar with this style of programming, it wasdesigned specifically to be usable by new programmers and youths, so they had spent quite a bitof time working with it. With this knowledge in hand the pair realized that could develop aprogram, known as an interpreter, which would allow the microcomputer to run programs in theBASIC format. Gates quickly made contact with the company that fronted the microcomputer,MITS, and stated that he could make an interpreter for them. MITS accepted the offer, and whengiven a demonstration of the program observed that it worked perfectly with the device it wasrunning on. MITS agreed to distribute the program and pay them a portion of the profit, with thissudden victory Gates and Allen saw that they could become players in this burgeoning field, andon April fourth, 1975 Microsoft was officially founded with Gates as the head. Over the next few years the pair worked steadily at gaining capital for their fledglingcompany, they quickly garnered a reputation for being excellent programmers and cunningbusinessmen, and in only two years became an international presence, gaining an office in Japanthanks to a deal with the Japanese magazine ASCII. In the year 1980 Microsoft began to make itsfirst major appearance in the computing industry, after five years of testing they released theirfirst two operating systems, Xenix, a polished version of the system Unix, and their crown jewel,DOS, or, Disk Operating System. DOS was originally the brainchild of a programming groupknown as Seattle Computer Products, a small firm that was ailing at the time, seeing the potentialin DOS, it was quickly purchased by Microsoft and retrofitted to work as the premier operatingsystem for industry giant IBM’s first personal computer. The computer and its operating system
were a smash hit, and many firms began to purchase their software exclusively from Microsoft,catapulting it to the head of the programming pack. Shortly after their newfound power was cemented the company lost its second-in-command, Paul Allen, who resigned due to the onset of cancer. Gates marched ahead without hislong time partner and continued to oversee Microsoft’s rise to dominance. In this time, morespecifically the year 1984, the first iteration of the now famous Microsoft Windows operatingsystem was released as an add-on to DOS. This gave the users of DOS a graphical representationof what was happening, rather than just endless lines of code, thus making programming thatmuch easier to comprehend. Two years later Microsoft became a publically traded company on the stock market,earning Microsoft billions of dollars within days. This newfound wealth, coupled withMicrosoft’s recent partnership with hardware giant IBM, resulted in an investigation by the U.S.government. The two industry heads were suspected of combining their power to crush any newmarket development, a serious crime by anyone’s standards. Though the investigation failed tobring charges before either of the corporations it heralded the start of a long chain of federalstudies into Microsoft’s business practices. While and IBM and Microsoft were battling theirrespective legal threats, they were also busy innovating their respective computing fields.Microsoft released the fruit of their shared labor, a state-of-the-art operating system to replacethe aging DOS. This new framework, known as OS/2, was to be installed in computers whilethey were still being assembled, a process which IBM greatly hastened, but, unbeknownst toIBM, soon after Microsoft witnessed the successful launch of the OS/2 software theyimmediately went to work on something better. Using knowledge and features gained from theirpainstaking development of OS/2, Microsoft engineers were hard at work creating the next big
thing, a 32-bit operating system known as Microsoft Windows NT. This new operating systemhad many improvements over OS/2, including several groundbreaking methods of handlingmultiple programs that Microsoft had kept secret from its partner. Upon hearing word of thenew, Microsoft only operating system, IBM immediately broke its partnership with the softwaregiant. Microsoft was unfazed by the loss of its closest ally, and launched the system as plannedsoon after. It became a critical success, in part due to the inclusion of the newly updatedMicrosoft Word and Microsoft Excel programs, two pieces of software that quickly becameinvaluable to office workers around the globe. In 1995, Microsoft released one of their most famous operating systems to date,Windows 95. This system, with its streamlined multitasking, groundbreaking start bar, andinnovative internet browsing program, Windows Explorer, can be seen as the seed of mostoperating systems used today, and, if asked to look at it, it is likely the only old operating systemwidely recognizable by the average computer user. The funds garnered by this extremelylucrative bit of programming were enough to allow Gates, in partnership with NBC, to create anew television station, MSNBC. S Microsoft’s legal troubles were still chasing them during thistime, and in the year 2000 Microsoft was referred to as an abusive monopoly by no less than theU.S. Supreme Court, this same year brought more startling news, in the form of Bill Gatesstepping down as CEO of Microsoft, and giving his position to childhood friend Steve Ballmer.Despite the decrease in pay grade, Gates continued to be active in Microsoft, giving himself theposition of Chief Software Architect. Further legal issues were raised overseas in the year 2004,resulting in Microsoft having to pay $612 million dollars to the European Union due to an Anti-Trust Investigation, later that same year Microsoft made the money back with the release of its
first gaming console, the Xbox, which, when introduced, was “on course to overtake that leadconsoles” (Taylor) and an even newer version of the Windows operating systems, Windows XP. The next release of the Windows series was perhaps its greatest blunder in recentmemory, Windows Vista, as the system was called when not being referred to as “a disaster”(Levy) or other such titles, was practically unusable upon release, due to a perfect storm of bugs,bad design, and what “the biggest criticisms point at, performance” (Arar and McCracken). Awave of hype preceded it’s release, reviewers calling it ”sleek” and “sexy” but despite this andthe unprecedented number of patches released to smooth out Vista’s poor performance, manylong-time Windows users were driven from the company and into the welcoming arms of Apple,Windows’ main competitor, due to the “public-relations disaster” (Lyons) that was the Vistarelease. The most recent incarnation of the Windows series, Windows 7, was released muchfaster, that most of its predecessors, only two years after Vista the 7 “Pre-beta” (Arar) code wasreleased, due to the fact that it was not so much a completely new operating system as much as itwas a fully cleaned and polished version of Windows Vista. Windows 7 has so far shown itselfto be a reliable platform for most users, even being referred to as a “smash hit” (Lyons) and asbeing “secure, stable, and speedy” (Reach and Calloway), but it barely put a dent in the numberof Apple users that were created by their bad experiences with 7’s first iteration. Today, Microsoft faces stiff competition from two major competitors, Apple and Google.Apple has consistently dominated the handheld gadget market, its Ipod and Iphone decimatingMicrosoft’s Zune and Microsoft Phone in any sales category imaginable. Along with itsstranglehold on the gadget market, Apple has been making increasingly bold forays intoMicrosoft’s home turf, the PC business. Apple’s various Mac computers are increasinglycommon, on-the-go users valuing them for their lightness and portability. Meanwhile the search
giant Google has proved itself to have almost total power over any kind of online marketplace,making it one of the few young companies that has slowed Microsoft’s “aggressive”(Kolakowski) approach to the online marketplace. Its state-of-the-art searching system makes itone of, if not the, most popular site available on the internet, and its internet browser, GoogleChrome, has shown up Microsoft’s aging Windows Explorer since its release. Despite thesethreats and many more, Microsoft continues to stand tall in the computing industry, a foundinggiant of the modern age. As one of the only constants in the constant turmoil that is modernelectronics, Microsoft is a brand that has proven its worth many times over, and is not likely toleave the public eye anytime soon. Works Cited
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