From WE Computers Museum
Microsoft logo.jpg
Type Public
Founded April 4, 1975
Headquarters Redmond, Washington, U.S.
Key people Bill Gates, founder
Paul Allen, founder
Industry Computer software, video games
Products Windows, Xbox
Number of people 221,000

Microsoft, a portmanteau of "microcomputer" and "software", is a computer company that was founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 4, 1975.


Microsoft first made its foray into operating system development with DOS, the Disk Operating System.

Microsoft's versions of DOS were based on 86-DOS by Seattle Computer Products.

86-DOS gained its name from the fact it was developed for SCP's computer kit that used the Intel 8086 processor. It was originally known as Q-DOS, which stood for the Quick and Dirty Operating System, and became 86-DOS after SCP began licensing it in 1980.

Microsoft licensed and then purchased 86-DOS to create its DOS for IBM, named PC DOS. PC DOS was first released in August 1981. Microsoft developed it until 1986, after which IBM further developed PC DOS itself.


After IBM continued developing PC DOS themselves, Microsoft forked development into MS-DOS, the Microsoft Disk Operating System. The first version of MS-DOS was released in 1987.

MSX computer standard

The MSX computer standard was announced on June 16, 1983, by Microsoft Japan, as an attempt to create unified standards among computer manufacturers of the time. Many Japanese companies, such as Sony, Yamaha, Canon, and Sharp, released computers that adhered to the MSX standard. Despite Microsoft's involvement, MSX computers were mainly sold in Japan and Europe, with few manufacturers releasing MSX computers in North America.


Microsoft's most successful operating system is Windows, which has a graphical user interface. Windows was first released on November 20, 1985. Most versions of Microsoft Windows actually ran on top of MS-DOS until the release of Windows 2000 in 2000, when Microsoft began using their Windows NT for Networks operating system core in their consumer versions as well.

Xbox video game consoles

On November 15, 2001, Microsoft released its first video game console, the Xbox. It was a risk, as the other major console manufacturers at the time had already established a fanbase with their previous consoles. The Xbox did not sell well in Japan, but in most of the rest of the world, it was the second best-selling console of its generation, behind the Sony PlayStation 2. This was partly helped by the poor performance of the Nintendo GameCube outside of Japan. The success of the Xbox was also helped in part by the discontinuation of the Sega Dreamcast in regions outside of Japan in 2002, and Sega's subsequent decision to depart from the video game hardware industry to focus on video game development.

On November 22, 2005, Microsoft released the follow-up to the Xbox, the Xbox 360. The Nintendo Wii, with its motion-sensing controller, was a surprise success. Sony mimicked Nintendo with its own motion controller, the PlayStation Move. However, Microsoft went in a different direction, releasing a motion-sensing camera, the Kinect. This replaced the Xbox Live Vision Camera, which was a basic camera that was mostly designed for video chat and taking pictures. There were some games that were released for the Xbox Live Vision Camera that used basic body sensing, but the Kinect was much more robust. It supported up to four players in the camera's view at one time, and sensed their body structure, giving each player a virtual skeleton, which would detect the movement of each individual body part. There were limitations to this, as dark hair or dark skin would often not be properly tracked, leading to the affected part of the body appearing invisible on-screen.

On November 22, 2013, Microsoft released the Xbox One, the follow-up to the Xbox 360, which competed with the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Wii U. The decision to call the third iteration of the Xbox the "One" comes from the fact that it is meant to be a singular device that operates everything in an entertainment center, from games to music and movies.

On November 10, 2020, Microsoft released the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, the follow-up to the Xbox One, which competed with the Sony PlayStation 5 and the Nintendo Switch. The Xbox Series X included a Blu-ray drive, while the Xbox Series S was digital only.

Operating systems by Microsoft

Title Notes Added to Museum Release
PC DOS 1981-1986 Not yet
MS-DOS 1987-1994 MS-DOS 3.3: February 7, 2021
Windows 1985-present Windows 10: July 15, 2015

Video game consoles by Microsoft

Title Notes Added to Museum Release
Xbox 2001 June 19, 2017
Xbox 360 2005 January 23, 2012
Xbox One 2013 September 10, 2016
Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S 2020 Not yet