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Microsoft

This company needs no introduction. What started in 1975 as two college boys' aspiration to turn PCs into useful machines, Microsoft has since blasted its way into becoming a key player in the software industry today.

This company needs no introduction. What started in 1975 as two college boys' aspiration to turn PCs into useful machines, Microsoft has since blasted its way into becoming a key player in the software industry today.

Bill Gates and childhood friend Paul Allen founded the company on an ambitious dream to transform PCs into machines that could be used anywhere--offices, schools and hospitals, too. Their computing vision was to make jobs more interesting and people more effective workers.

Thirty years later, Microsoft today employs 60,000 people located across offices in 60 locations worldwide and expects to hire 4,400 new employees by the end of the year. The company raked in revenues of US$39.8 billion in fiscal year 2005 ended Jun. 30, and invested an estimated US$6.2 billion on research and development.

Microsoft's sales exceeded US$1 million in 1978, and when the company went public in 1986, you would have forked out US$21 just to own one of its shares. Over 7 million copies of Windows 95 were sold in the first seven weeks of its release. Today, there are more than 600 million Windows users worldwide, and Microsoft's range of products and services has expanded to include game consoles, office productivity suites, server management tools, enterprise applications and instant messaging.

But the software giant faces aggressive competition from open source and arch rival Google, and continues to battle security problems.

However, Microsoft is not resting on its laurels as it continues to make calculated acquisitions and form strategic alliances to strengthen its foothold against Google.