Sidebar: Desktop dominance

Von Stefan Hammond

Founded in 1975, US-based Microsoft describes itself as "the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing." Microsoft"s Hong Kong office was established in 1991.

Microsoft"s seven core business units encompass their desktop operating systems, stand-alone desktop applications (Microsoft Office, etc), business process applications, integrated server software, software developer tools, software for mobile devices, the MSN group of Web-based services and the Xbox videogame-player.

In the early 80s, Microsoft"s main product was MS-DOS, a command-line user interface (CLUI) for personal computers that remains in limited use today. Apple agreed to license parts of its competing GUI (graphical user interface) to Microsoft for use in Windows 1.0, but improvements in Windows 2.0 caused Apple to file suit against Microsoft in 1988, claiming infringement of the "look and feel" of their Macintosh operating system. Apple lost, and litigation dragged on until 1994, when the US Supreme Court refused to hear Apple"s appeal.

Nowadays, the proliferation of GUIs means that few recall when desktop machines came without mice. But while the dominant GUI OS is now Windows, legal challenges remain--in December of 2004, the President of the EU"s Court of First Instance rejected a request from Microsoft to suspend sanctions ordered by the Commission for abusing the dominant market position of its Windows operating system. The sanctions include forcing Microsoft to offer a version of Windows without Windows Media Player, publishing its APIs (application programming interfaces) for its workgroup server software and paying a fine of ?497 million (US$931 million).