Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational technology company that develops and sells a wide range of consumer and enterprise software, hardware, services, and consumer electronics. Founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1975, the company has been based in Redmond, Washington, since 1986.
Microsoft: A wealth-generating machine
One of the world's largest and most successful technology companies, Microsoft's global revenue has increased relatively consistently since its conception, with the figure reaching a record high of over 198 billion U.S. dollars in their 2022 financial year. That same year, Microsoft reported net income of 73 billion U.S. dollars, another record high for the company. Microsoft’s success has translated into personal wealth for those closely involved in its formation. Predictably, both Bill Gates and the late Paul Allen amassed large fortunes on the strength of Microsoft's growth. Mr. Gates is joined by Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's 30th employee and former CEO, as two of the richest men in the United States - and subsequently the world - each with a multi-billion-dollar fortune to their name.
Historically, Microsoft has generated the majority of its revenue from the commercial licensing of its software and various operating systems. One of the company's largest segments is ‘intelligent cloud'. This is perhaps unsurprising, considering that the segment contains Windows OS sales, searching advertising revenues, and gaming revenues from Xbox software and hardware. Microsoft Windows continues to dominate the personal computer operating system market and Microsoft's most recent gaming consoles have experienced moderate success, with the Xbox One gaming console selling millions of units years after its initial release. The cloud computing segment is taking on a bigger and bigger role in Microsoft's overall business. The software industry has been undergoing a shift to the cloud and Microsoft is well-positioned in this industry-wide transformation: it is one of the major cloud service providers and has a big presence in both the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and the software-as-a-service (SaaS) market. Its primary rivals in the cloud market are other tech giants such as Amazon, IBM, and Salesforce.
Notable acquisitions and partnerships
In January 2022, Microsoft announced plans to purchase game company Activision Blizzard in an all-cash deal worth nearly 70 billion U.S. dollars. This dwarfs Microsoft’s 26-billion deal with LinkedIn back in 2016 and would become Microsoft’s biggest acquisition ever, should it go through. The acquisition also marks Microsoft’s shift to focus more on gaming content delivery on top of platform building, and the company’s ambition to venture into the emerging metaverse industry. Another of Microsoft’s recent blockbuster acquisition is that of the voice artificial intelligence (AI) company Nuance in 2021 for almost 20 billion U.S. dollars. This marks Microsoft's industry-specific cloud strategy, as Nuance has a good standing in the healthcare market. The latest partnership with OpenAI shows Microsoft’s ambition to advance its AI capabilities with some popular models already deployed on Azure in products like GitHub Copilot, DALL·E 2, and ChatGPT.
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Lionel Sujay Vailshery
Research expert covering the consumer electronics industry