Microsoft certainly doesn't need any introduction to computer users around the world. Listed as a public company on both NASDAQ (MSFT) and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (0388), Microsoft was founded in 1975, with its initial public offering (IPO) of stock being made in 1986. The subsequent meteoric rise in Microsoft's stock price is reputed to have resulted in four of its employees reaching billionaire status, with another 12,000 or so, becoming millionaires. The company's mission, as stated on its website, is to "help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential".

Microsoft currently operates under three divisions, being Platform Products and Services Division; Business Division; and Entertainment and Devices Division. Under the Platform Products and Services Division, Microsoft’s flagship product is indisputably the Windows operating system, which has been produced in a number of versions. Many personal computers, including all IBM compatible PCs, are sold with Windows preinstalled, thereby cementing the company’s position as the operating system of choice for consumers. The Microsoft Business Division markets the company’s line of office software, Microsoft Office, which includes standard products such as Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and Publisher. The Business Division also develops business and financial management software to fulfill specific needs. Many would agree that the most exciting division of Microsoft is the Entertainment and Devices Division. It is here that innovation is only limited by imagination, and with some of the tech industry’s most creative people on board, there appears to be no limit to what Microsoft can achieve.

As a high-profile leader in its field, Microsoft has been the target of much criticism, the most persistent being accusations of anti-competitive practices, with a number of lawsuits resulting in rulings involving large sums of money, against the company. On the other hand, Microsoft is making efforts to become more environmentally friendly by installing solar panels which generate up to 15 percent of the energy used at its Silicon Valley campus, the phasing out the use of PVC in its products, and a number of other in-house recycling and waste-reducing projects.

While the days of instant millionaires may be past, Microsoft remains a productive element in many investors’ portfolios.

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