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View of Microsoft's headquarter [1]

Microsoft, formally known as Microsoft Corporation, is an American multinational computer technology corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington. Microsoft is engaged in developing, licensing, and supporting a range of software products and services related to computing. [2] [3] [4] Its products include operating systems for personal computers, servers, phones, and other intelligent devices; server applications, productivity applications; business solution applications; desktop and server management tools; software development tools; video games; and online advertising. Microsoft also provides cloud-based solutions, consulting services, product services, and solution support services [5] As Microsoft continues to expand its products and services, there have been several ethical issues revolving around its business practices and products relating to censorship, privacy, stifling competition, and chatbots.


Early Years

Founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen.

Microsoft was founded on April 4th, 1975, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. [5] Inspired by the January cover of Popular Electronics, Harvard dropout Bill Gates and friend Paul Allen started Micro-Soft (Microsoft) for microprocessors and software - to develop software for the Altair 8800 (Early Computer). By the end of 1978, Microsoft's sales topped more than $1 million and in 1979 the business moved its headquarters to Bellevue, Washington, where Gates and Allen grew up. In 1980, the company struck a deal to provide the operating system for IBM's first personal computer. Microsoft moved on to release Windows in 1985, a year before moving its headquarters to Redmond, Washington. On March 13, 1986, Microsoft went public with an offering price of $21.00 per share. By the late 1980s, Microsoft was the world's largest personal-computer software company. [6] [7]

Product Development in the 1990s

Windows 95. Sourced from The Conversation.[8]

In 1993, Microsoft introduced Encarta, as well as the first version of Windows NT. The following year, Microsoft releases an upgrade called Windows NT 3.5, winning the PC Magazine award for technical excellence. The upgrade boosted sales of NT to more than one million copies and by the end of the year, Microsoft announced an agreement to purchase Intuit. However, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit to prevent the takeover because of antitrust concerns. Still, Microsoft's revenues exceeded $4 billion in 1994. [9]

In 1995, the company released Windows 95, a redesign of its Windows OS which used the basic design template that it would rely on to this day. That same year Bill Gates outlines Microsoft's commitment to supporting and enhancing the internet with the release of its web browser called Internet Explorer. In 1998, Microsoft released Windows 98 as part of its Windows 9x family of Microsoft Windows operating systems. By early 1999, the company had secured more than 100 licensing agreements with manufacturers. [9] [5] [10]

Products and Services

Main article: List of Microsoft software

Software Products


The Windows operating system (Windows OS) is a family of operating systems for personal computers, servers, and mobile devices. It provides a graphical user interface, virtual memory management, multitasking, and support for its devices. [11]

Microsoft offers a variety of accessibility technology and tools for Windows such as vision, hearing, dexterity, mobility, and focus. [12]

Internet Explorer

Internet Explore version one

Internet Explorer, was first released in 1995 as a bundle with Windows. The first version of Internet Explorer was very similar to and licensed from the early web browser Spyglass Mosaic, which was one of the first web browsers ever developed. [13] Subsequent versions were released as free downloads available for all users. The final version, Internet Explorer 11, was released on October 17, 2013. It was extremely advanced at the time of release, including features like the prerendering of HTML, decoding JPEG processes accelerated by local hardware, integrated WebGL support, and overhauled developer tools. [14] On January 21, 2015, Microsoft announced that Internet Explorer would be replaced by Microsoft Edge as the default browser in their upcoming Windows 10. [15] The company will continue to provide security updates through 2029, as many enterprises using older technology still rely on the browser. Internet Explorer has had a long history of security vulnerabilities. In 2010, attackers went after many U.S. companies using Internet Explorer 6, and vulnerabilities allowed researchers to bypass the safer “Protected Mode.” [16] Microsoft was slow to patch the vulnerabilities, resulting in multiple national governments officially recommending the use of different browsers. [17]

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge. Sourced from CNET.[18]

Microsoft Edge was first released in 2015 as a replacement for Internet Explorer in Windows 10 and the Xbox One, and has expanded to support Android, iOS, and macOS. [19] Microsoft Edge is a stark improvement to Internet Explorer, featuring proprietary HTML and JavaScript handling resulting in higher performance and power efficiency than its predecessor. [20] Microsoft Edge has been very well received. Despite a launch with incomplete features, Microsoft has had a much faster response time to issues with Edge than with Internet Explorer. Due to the removal of ActiveX, the software that caused a large number of security vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer, Edge has additionally seen much stronger security test results.

Microsoft 365 Cover View [21]

Microsoft 365

Microsoft offers a collection of powerful productivity tools such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access all bundled together in Microsoft 365. Inside Microsoft 365, formerly known as Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft offers its users monthly subscription plans for personal, business, education, and government organizations. [22]

Nuance and Discord

On Monday April 12, 2021, Microsoft announced that they have reached an agreement with Nuance, a tech company specializing in speech recognition, for a deal worth over $15 billion[23]. Known as the main speech recognition technology of Apple’s Siri, it is expected that Microsoft will position Nuance to assist with their operations with governments in the field of speech recognition. It is also expected that Microsoft will utilize this technology to generate revenue in the healthcare market, a market that was directly impacted by Covid-19 and transformed into digital setting. Additional details about the intended use of Nuance as well as the future of Nuance’s existing partnerships remain to be unclear at the time. Similarly, in early March of 2021, Microsoft announced its intentions to acquire Discord, an alternative social messaging platform with full encryption, for about $10 Billion, according to Bloomberg[24]. While Discord gained even more popularity after WhatsApp’s change in privacy terms that led many people to abandon the app, according to US Today[25]. Discord also comes with ethical implications as there are documented incidents in the past where kids were subjected to racist and sexist commentary. Microsoft’s stance against these security concerns and ethical implications remains unclear at this point in time[26].

Cloud-Based Computing Services

The Microsoft 365 also enables people to stream Microsoft applications and software such as Office, Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync from the cloud. [5]

Xbox LIVE is an online service which enables online gaming, social networking, and access to a wide range of entertainment content such as video games and movies. [5]


Microsoft Azure Logo. Sourced from Sysadmin Central.[27]

Microsoft Azure is a set of cloud-based computing services, often referred to as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), offered by Microsoft.[28][29] Azure allows both small-scale independent hobbyists and development and operations personnel at small businesses, large corporations, and government agencies to deploy their software applications online without the hassle of managing a physical server. With Azure, the code will be hosted on a specialized computer in one of Microsoft’s data centers, which are distributed across the globe on every continent except Antarctica.[28][29]

Azure Dashboard. Sourced from the Official Microsoft Blog.[30]

Using Azure allows developers to focus on writing and maintaining their code, and avoid dedicating time to infrastructural problems that physical onsite servers face.[28][29] For example, physical servers can suddenly crash due to issues such as problems with hardware internals or sudden spikes in website traffic overloading the server. By deploying code on Azure, Microsoft takes on the responsibility of keeping users’ code running and online at all times by automatically allocating extra computing resources in the event that a particular application is on the verge of crashing.[28][29]

Market share of Azure and its competitors over time. Sourced from Forbes.[31]

Microsoft Azure was originally launched in 2010 as Windows Azure.[28][29] In 2014, Windows Azure was renamed to Microsoft Azure as the platform had expanded beyond just Windows machines to also encompass servers running the open source Linux operating system.[28][29] Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella intended for Azure to play a leading role in Microsoft’s pivot towards modern cloud ecosystems.[32][33] In the 2000s, Microsoft had fallen behind rivals such as Google, Amazon, and Apple as the technology market shifted towards the cloud and mobile devices and away from desktop computers, which were traditionally Microsoft’s main source of revenue due to products such as the Windows operating system and Office desktop software suite.[31][32][33]

By 2020, ten years after its initial launch, Azure generated $7 billion in yearly revenue, 19% of Microsoft’s total revenue that year, and had captured 20% of the total cloud services market.[31][32][33] In comparison, Azure’s main competitor and market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) had a total yearly revenue of $12.7 billion and 32% market share.[31][32][33] Other Azure competitors, in order of decreasing market share, include Google Cloud Platform, Alibaba Cloud, IBM Cloud, and Salesforce.[31][32][33]

Hardware Products

Mobile Devices and Tablets

A Windows Phone. Sourced from ZDNet.[34]

In 1996, Microsoft introduced its first mobile device referred to as Windows CE 1.0. The form factor of these devices was that of a small, portable PC. [35] The next iteration of the Microsoft mobile device was the Windows Mobile operating system released in 2000. In 2017, Windows Phones accounted for only 1.3% of the entire mobile phone market [36] As a result, Microsoft discontinued development of new features for the Windows Mobile operating system. The low percentage of market share for Windows Mobile is attributed to the lack of app development investment from other companies - Microsoft was competing with Apple's iOS and Google's Android, which accounted for 34% and 64% of the mobile operating system market at the time. [36]

The first Microsoft Surface tablet was announced in June 2012 at an invitation-only media event in Los Angeles. [37]. 9 years after the launch of its first tablet, Microsoft secured an agreement with NFL to provide tablets for teams and their staff for player and team analysis.

Xbox Consoles

First-generation Xbox. Sourced from TechRadar.[38]

The first generation of Xbox was released on November 15, 2001, in North America. It was Microsoft's first foray into the gaming console market and sold over 24 million units. [39] The original intention was for the Xbox, originally called the DirectX Box for its use of the company's DirectX API, to run on Windows 2000. [40] The Xbox was the first console to come with an Ethernet port to allow internet access, laying the foundation for the online gaming subscription service Xbox Live. [41]

The lighting pattern indicating a fatal error on an Xbox 360.

On November 22, 2005, Microsoft released two versions of the Xbox 360 and sold over 84 million units worldwide. Microsoft's console became a household entertainment symbol for its support of early streaming services, CDs, and DVDs.[41] Despite its great success, the 360 was prone to a complete console failure commonly referred to as the "red ring of death" for its lighting pattern on the front of the console. [42][40] Unofficial sources reported the failure rate was anywhere from 23.7% up to 54.2%, though Microsoft originally claimed the rate was within the industry's acceptable standards of 3% to 5%. [42] The only way to fix the console was to ship it back to Microsoft for repair or replacement, assuming it was still under warranty.[42] Another less discussed problem of the 360 was its ability to cause a circular scratch on the readable face of game discs, which rendered them unusable. [43][42]

Microsoft's new Xbox Series X [44]

The next generation of Microsoft consoles was the Xbox One, released in November 2013. Its reception was lukewarm due to the console's required internet connection, a lack of exciting game releases, and an intention to prevent used game sharing and trading. [45] The Xbox One was followed by the 2016 release of the Xbox One S, a slimmer and more efficient version, and the 2017 release of the Xbox One X, which became the most powerful gaming console before the release of the Xbox Series X. [45]

The Xbox Series X/S is the most recent and most successful Xbox release by Microsoft, having launched in November 2020. [46] Within a week of its release, widespread reports of supply shortages grew and persisted through the fourth quarter.[47]


A Kinect unit for Xbox 360.[48]

In 2010, Microsoft released a motion-sensing video game controller for use with Xbox 360 consoles: the Kinect.[49] Eight million units were sold in its first 60 days on the market, claiming a Guinness World Record for being the "Fastest-Selling Consumer Electronics Device."[50] The device tracked players' gestures, movement, and other features to enable game play without the use of a physical controller.[51] In addition to these features, the console add-on also had voice and facial recognition capabilities, and even bore an infrared sensor to capture 3D video data under any ambient lighting.[52][53]

As anticipation grew for their Xbox One console, Microsoft announced that their new console would require that the Kinect for Xbox One be connected at all times for the console to function.[54] This announcement raised many concerns. Some worried that sensor data could be used for unauthorized surveillance or even used for targeted advertising.[55] Also, as a result of the device's microphone being on at all times, concerns were raised that the Kinect could record conversations.[56] In response to these concerns, Microsoft made it clear that voice recognition and motion tracking can be disabled by the users, that any data collected cannot be used for advertising per the Kinect's privacy policy, and that no user-generated content would be redistributed without explicit permission.[56][57]

In response to this widespread backlash, Microsoft announced in August 2013 that the Xbox One system would no longer require a Kinect unit to be plugged in in order to function.[58] Despite this, Xbox One consoles were only sold in bundles with alongside Kinect devices at launch in November 2013.[58] In June 2014, Microsoft launched a Kinect-less Xbox One system to compete with the price-point of the PlayStation 4.[59] This removal from the bundle marked the beginning of the phase-out of the Kinect.

For subsequent systems such as the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X, Microsoft required that a special USB adapter be used in order to connect a Kinect unit to the console.[60][61] On October 25, 2017, Microsoft announced that it would stop the manufacture of Kinect for Xbox One.[62] And in January 2018, the adapter was discontinued.[61]


HoloLens in action in the military [63]

Microsoft HoloLens is a pair of mixed reality smart glasses developed and manufactured by Microsoft. The first Development Edition was offered on March 30, 2016 and targeted developers in North America for $3000. [NEEDS CITATION] Microsoft released this product and established HoloLens as the company's flagship product for Mixed Reality – the technological concept of merging real and virtual worlds to produce new environments for humans.[64] The release drew many similarities to Google's Google Glass which, similarly, looked to popularize wearable mixed reality technology.[NEEDS CITATION] During the first release, Microsoft provided detailed documentation to help third party developers develop new experiences.[NEEDS CITATION] Specifically, Microsoft released HoloStudio which allowed developers to easily create 3D applications that integrated with HoloLens.[64]

HoloLens 2. Sourced from IT Pro.[65]

On February 24, 2019, Microsoft announced the HoloLens 2 at the Mobile World Congress.[NEEDS CITATION] After three years under the first iteration of the product, Microsoft deliberately decided to design the future of HoloLens to cater for workers instead of consumers.[NEEDS CITATION] The second iteration boasted many new features including increased comfortability and a field of view that was double the size of the Development Edition.[NEEDS CITATION] Notably, the smart glasses notably on an ARM processor that tremendously added to the device's long battery life.[NEEDS CITATION] The HoloLens 2 was designed for people who work with their hands and find it difficult to integrate a computer or smartphone into their daily work.[NEEDS CITATION]

Early April in 2021, Microsoft announced the closure of a $22 billion deal with the Army for its AR headsets.[66] This served as a follow-up to a smaller $480 million deal in 2018 that kickstarted Microsoft's and the U.S. Army's cooperation under Microsoft HoloLens. [67] Highlights of the 2018 deal included the purchase of over 100,000 AR headsets as a part of a program enhance the military's the ability to detect, decide, and engage before the enemy.[66] In the 2021 deal, Microsoft will supply 120,000 customized versions of HoloLens built for rugged use.[NEEDS CITATION] The deal spans 5 years with an optional additional 5 years.[NEEDS CITATION] Many speculate that in addition to supplying the HoloLens devices, the Army was eager to additionally strike partnerships with Microsoft's Services and Microsoft Azure to secure computing power for years to come.[NEEDS CITATION]



MSN China. Sourced from The Motley Fool.[68]

In May 2005, Microsoft updated the Chinese version of their social blogging platform MSN Spaces with a software package banning words like "democracy" and "freedom". [69] [70] Chinese MSN Spaces users who tried to include such terms in subject lines were given the following warning: "This topic contains forbidden words. Please delete them." A Microsoft spokesman later said that the restrictions were the price the company had to pay to spread the positive benefits of blogs and online messaging. [71]


In August 2019, Motherboard reported that Microsoft had hired contractors to listen to audio recordings captured by Xbox consoles in people's homes. Microsoft said that the recordings had been collected to help improve the functionality of their voice-based products such as the Xbox's voice command features or Cortana virtual assistant. The audio was supposed to only be captured following a deliberate voice command by a user such as "Xbox!" or "Hey Cortana!". However, contractors said that recordings were sometimes triggered and recorded by mistake, without the users' knowledge. [72] [73]

The launch of Windows 10 in 2015 also sparked privacy concerns due to its updated privacy policy. According to the new policy, users of Windows 10 devices automatically gave their consent to sending Microsoft their personal data such as the content of emails and content in private folders. Users were able to opt out of this data collection, but only if they turned off various capabilities in twelve different sections of the privacy settings. [74] Although Microsoft's data collection practices were similar to those of rivals Google and Apple, Microsoft faced more criticism due to its vague privacy policies and the extent to which data was collected. [74] In 2019, Microsoft came under investigation by the European Union's privacy regulator due to their data collection practices potentially breaching privacy rules. As of April 2021, the Dutch Data Protection Agency and the Irish Data Protection Committee are testing Microsoft's Windows 10 privacy settings to check whether Microsoft has violated Dutch privacy laws by collecting more data than is necessary for their company activities. If Microsoft's data collection is confirmed as a breach of privacy laws, then Microsoft will be fined up to four billion dollars. [75]

Stifling Competition

On May 18, 1998, the United States Justice Department filed antitrust charges against Microsoft. The charges related to Microsoft bundling additional programs into its Windows operating system. This action forced customers who wanted access to Microsoft's software applications such as the Microsoft Office Suite to additionally purchase the Microsoft Windows operating system. The Justice Department further disliked that Microsoft pre-installed their web browser Internet Explorer to Windows consumers for free. Competing browser companies such as Netscape had to charge money for their web browsers in order to turn a profit, while Microsoft, due to its presence in other industries, could afford to release their browser for free and make up for the losses through sales of its other products. This action led Microsoft to hold a near-monopoly over the web browser market. [76]

In the same antitrust case, Microsoft was further accused of intentionally sabotaging competing browsers through changes to their Windows operating system. Due to Windows's boot-up and first-screen restrictions, it was difficult for users to install competing browsers and simultaneously difficult to uninstall Internet Explorer.[76]

Tay's Twitter page [77]

Racist Chatbot

In 2016, Microsoft’s Technology and Research division launched a conversational A.I. Twitter chatbot known as "Tay". Tay, an acronym for “Thinking About You”, was designed to learn how to converse based on its interactions with users on Twitter and become more adept at having Twitter conversations with human users as time passed.[78] In theory, Tay is responsible for using the data sent from users on Twitter to learn new behaviors, phrases, and words to include in its vocabulary in order to improve its conversational skills.

Due to its design, Tay quickly learned racist, sexist, and other politically incorrect phrases from some Twitter users.[79] The chatbot began publicly posting offensive racially and sexually charged tweets. As a temporary fix, Microsoft researchers created a blacklist system to prevent Tay from tweeting about sensitive topics such as policing in the United States.[79] According to Ars Technica, previous incarnations of the bot went through 40 million interactions without experiencing any similar problems.

Tay was later taken down by Microsoft to modify and adjust its behavior. Shortly thereafter, the Microsoft team released a public apology for the inflammatory behavior of the bot and promised to “look to bring Tay back only when (they) are confident (in) better anticipating malicious intent that conflicts with (their) principles and values”.[79] Five days later, Microsoft relaunched Tay. This time, the chatbot had a significantly less controversial experience, but it eventually began glitching and endlessly tweeted “You are too fast, please take a rest”. Tay was taken down after Microsoft's second attempt and was never brought back online after the controversial scandals.

Microsoft and TikTok Merger

On August 7th 2021, Trump administration announced their intention to ban TikTok from U.S app stores and revealed that Trump has already signed an executive order aimed at restricting TikTok’s operations in America[80]. According to Trump administration, TikTok posed a serious threat to national security as TikTok’s proprietary algorithm gives access to the location as well as the personal information of its users[81]. During the early days of September 2021, Trump administration announced their intention to remove the ban with the condition of a U.S based company purchasing the rights of operation in America. According to a New York Times article published on September 18th 2021, Trump administration was having talks with Oracle, Microsoft and Walmart to buy TikTok’s US operations. At the earlier stages of the talks, Microsoft was viewed as the front-runner by the public, as the only social media that Microsoft owned was Linkedin at the time. However, according to an article published in Daily Mail, %63 of Microsoft employees opposed the merger, stating that “wading into the social media space would mean Microsoft contending with issues such as content moderation and free speech”[82]. Consequently, Oracle was appointed as TikTok’s tech partner for their operations in Canada and America.


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