Microsoft

The birth of Microsoft 

William Henry
Gates, better known throughout the world as Bill Gates, was born on 28
October 1955 in Seattle, Washington. His family was well-known in the
worlds of business and politics. In his early school days, it became
clear that he had inherited many of the excellent qualities of his
forefathers. In elementary school he rapidly stood out, outstripping
the abilities of his peers. Recognizing his intelligence, his parents
enrolled him at Lakeside, a private school renowned for its academic
emphasis. This decision ultimately set the course of Bill Gates’s
future. It was at Lakeside that he first made his acquaintance with
computers.
First computing experience
In spring 1968, Lakeside decided
to introduce its students to the world of computers. Although computers
were then too large and expensive for the school to buy, it bought
computer time on one owned by General Electric. The few thousand
dollars earned through a fund raiser was considered enough to buy ample
computer time. However, Lakeside had totally underestimated the pulling
power that the computer would exert on its pupils.

A few of the Lakeside students, including Bill Gates, became completely
fascinated with the computer. They spent day and night writing
programmes and soaking up knowledge through computer literature.
Classes were skipped, homework often remained undone and – worst of all
– computer time soon ran out!

In autumn 1968, a company called Computer Center Corporation opened in
Seattle offering computer time at reasonable rates. Lakeside School and
Computer Center Corporation entered into an agreement allowing
provision of computer time for Lakeside’s students. The young hackers
soon started causing problems, making the system crash several times as
well as breaking the security system. They were banned from using the
system for some weeks.

In late 1968, Bill Gates, his friend Paul Allen and two others from
Lakeside founded the Lakeside Programmers Group. Their aim was to apply
their computer knowledge in the outside world. The opportunity arrived
faster than expected. The Computer Center Corporation was having
problems with weak security and a system which frequently crashed,
resulting in loss of business. Having been impressed by the earlier
roguish activities of the students with Lakeside’s computer time, the
Computer Center Corporation hired them to expose weaknesses in its
computer system. In return the Lakeside Programmers Group received
unlimited computer time.

Bill Gates and his friends took this opportunity to pick the brains of
the Computer Center Corporation’s employees for any new information and
developments and it was during this time that Bill Gates and Paul Allen
really began to acquire the skills and knowledge which, seven years
later, led to the founding of Microsoft.

A bit of business 
In March 1970, the Lakeside Programmers Group had a setback and had to
find a new way to get computer time when the Computer Center
Corporation went out of business following financial problems. They got
their break when Information Sciences Inc. hired them to develop a new
programme. They received not only free computer time but also royalties
if money was made from the group’s programmes. Bill Gates and Paul
Allen then branched out on their own and formed a company called
Traf-O-Data, producing a small computer to monitor traffic flow. This
made them about $20,000. During their years at Lakeside, Bill Gates and
Paul Allen continued to search for opportunities to profit from their
computing skills. The opportunity came when defence contractor TRW
experienced computer problems similar to those at the Computer Center
Corporation. TRW offered Bill Gates and Paul Allen the job of fixing
the bug-infested computer system. It was at this time that the two
first considered forming their own software company.

On to basics
In autumn 1973, Bill Gates joined Harvard University. Undecided as to
what to study, he took the standard freshman course. He did well but
his heart wasn’t in it. Once again he immersed himself in the world of
computers. During this time, Bill Gates and Paul Allen stayed in
contact, discussing ideas, projects and the possibility of opening a
software business. 
In December 1974, Paul Allen was on his way to meet Bill Gates when he
bought a magazine that had caught his eye. Popular Electronics pictured
the Altair 8080 on its cover with the headline "World’s First
Microcomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models." They both knew that the
home computer market was about to take off and that this was their big
chance. Someone had to make software for these new computers. 

Bill Gates called MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems),
the makers of the Altair and told them that he and Paul Allen had
developed a BASIC that could be used on the Altair. They hadn’t
actually written anything. Nor did they have an Altair! However, MITS
were unaware of this and wanted a demonstration of their BASIC.
Intensive work began to prepare the promised programme. Eight weeks
later it was ready. Paul Allen flew to MITS to demonstrate and test
their creation. Paul Allen had never touched an Altair before. If the
Altair simulation he had designed on the school’s computer, or any of
Bill Gates’s code was faulty, failure was highly likely. He entered the
programme into the company’s Altair and the it immediately worked
perfectly.

MITS struck a deal with Bill Gates and Paul Allen to buy the programme rights.

By now Bill Gates was convinced that the software market had been born.
Within a year, he had left Harvard and in 1975 Microsoft was founded.

The browser war
But Bill Gates almost missed the opportunity provided by Internet. At
one time, he even considered it to be merely a passing fad. However,
once Microsoft had realised Internet’s potential, the company not only
rapidly caught up but overtook its competitors. In 1995 Netscape
Navigator was the leading –more or less standard – browser with a 90%
market share. The only competition came from a few browsers under
development such as Mosaic and Lynx. Microsoft licensed Mosaic as the
basis of Internet Explorer 1.0 which was released with Microsoft
Windows 95 Plus Pack, quickly followed by Internet Explorer 2.0. The
race for supremacy had begun. Rapid release of new versions of Netscape
and Explorer followed. Netscape was essentially a relatively small
single product company. Microsoft had two distinct advantages:
resources and a monopoly in the operating systems market. Internet
Explorer was included in every copy of Microsoft Windows. The result
was that using revenue from Windows, Microsoft Explorer was rapidly
improved and was soon as good as Netscape Navigator. Users no longer
found it necessary to install Netscape Navigator. Today Internet
Explorer’s market share is estimated at 90%.

Microsoft is today’s world leader in software, services and internet
technologies for personal and business computing. It employs over
56,000 people worldwide, has subsidiaries in about 90 countries. The
company’s net revenue in 2003 was over $32 billion.

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