Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) is one of the biggest corporate success stories in American history. From its humble beginnings in Bill Gates' Harvard dorm room, the company grew to become one of the biggest companies in the world. Headquartered in Redmond, Wash., the firm is known for its operating system and software products. Still, it doesn't end there. Microsoft also manufactures mobile devices, hardware products (gaming consoles and personal computers), and has become one of the biggest players in the world of cloud computing. It acquired the social network LinkedIn in 2016.

Key Takeaways

  • Microsoft is well known for its software products and operating system, but it also makes hardware like gaming consoles and personal computers.
  • Cloud computing has also become an important source of revenue growth for Microsoft.
  • By all measures—revenues, office locations, number of employees—Microsoft has seen substantial growth since it went public in 1986.
  • In 2016, the company made its biggest acquisition when it purchased social network LinkedIn.

Microsoft was founded in 1975 in Albuquerque, N.M. and the company was initially formed as the partnership Micro-soft, which operated for over five years until the firm was incorporated in 1981. That same year, Microsoft released its first personal computer running its operating system, MS-DOS 1.0, which had 4,000 lines of code (more recent versions of operating systems would have more than 50 million lines of code).

The first incarnation of Microsoft Office arrived on Aug. 1, 1989 and the company has grown exponentially in size and scope since that time. Some of the figures are staggering (all figures updated Feb. 2020 unless noted otherwise):

  • 148,465: The number of Microsoft employees.
  • 210: The number of countries where Microsoft has subsidiaries.
  • 646: The number of office sites worldwide. Ninety-nine locations are owned by the company, with the remaining 547 under lease (as of 2010).
  • 32,404,796: The total square feet owned or leased by Microsoft worldwide (as of 2010).
  • 225: The number of companies that have been acquired by Microsoft.
  • $125.8 billion: Microsoft's fiscal year 2019 revenues.
  • $32.6 billion: Revenue from server products and cloud services, making it Microsoft's biggest segment by revenue, followed by Office products and cloud services ($31.7 billion), Windows ($20.3 billion), gaming ($11.4 billion), search advertising ($7.6 billion), LinkedIn ($6.7 billion), enterprise services ($6.1 billion), and devices ($6 billion).
  • 84 million: The number of units of Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming console sold worldwide. The major competitors in this market are Sony's PS4, which sold 105 million units, and Nintendo's Wii, with 101 million units.
  • $1.4 billion: The fine paid to the European Union in 2008 for not complying with a 2004 antitrust judgment. This judgment was the largest ever imposed against a single company by the competition regulators of the EU.
  • $1,276,627: Microsoft's former CEO Steve Ballmer's total compensation in 2009. Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980, as its 24th employee. Ballmer is now the 19th-wealthiest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $41.2 billion, according to Forbes. He left Microsoft in 2014.
  • $42.9 million: CEO Satya Nadella's annual salary.
  • $96.5 billion: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates' net worth. Gates is the second-wealthiest person in the world, according to Forbes.
  • $26 billion: The sum Microsoft paid to acquire LinkedIn, its largest acquisition ever.
  • $480 million: The amount of a government contract for Microsoft to bring augmented reality (AR) headset technology to the U.S. military in 2018.

Microsoft shares were listed on March 13, 1986 after Microsoft's initial public offering and, adjusted for stock splits, started trading at 9 cents per share ($21 per share at the time). By 2020, the stock was worth more than $150 and, over the decades, the share appreciation made millionaires out of more than 10,000 employees with stock ownership in the firm.

Looking forward, Microsoft's continued success depends both on maintaining the dominance of its bread and butter Windows and Office products, but the company has demonstrated its ability to capture new markets—such as personal computers, game consoles, mobile devices, and cloud services—to fuel further growth.