In November 1985, Bill Gates and Microsoft launched Windows; nearly two years after his announcement. Visually the Windows system looked very similar to the Macintosh system Apple Computer Corporation had introduced nearly two years earlier. Apple had earlier given Microsoft full access to their technology while it was working on making Microsoft products compatible for Apple computers. Gates had advised Apple to license their software but they ignored the advice, being more interested in selling computers. Once again, Gates took full advantage of the situation and created a software format that was strikingly similar to the Macintosh. Apple threatened to sue and Microsoft retaliated, saying it would delay shipment of its Microsoft compatible software for Macintosh users. In the end, Microsoft prevailed in the courts because it could prove that while there were similarities in how the two software systems operated, each individual function was distinctly different.In 1986, Bill Gates took Microsoft public with an initial public offering (IPO) of $21 per share. Gates held 45 percent of the companys 24.7 million shares and became an instant millionaire at age 31. Gatess stake at that time was $234 million of Microsofts $520 million. Over time, the companys stock increased in value and split numerous times. In 1987, Bill Gates became a billionaire when the stock raised to $90.75 a share. Since then, Gates has been at the top, or at least near the top, of Forbes annual list of the top 400 wealthiest people in America. In 1999, with stock prices at an all time high and the stock splitting eight fold since its IPO, Gatess wealth briefly topped $101 billion.
et, Bill Gates never felt totally secure about the status of his company. Always having to look over his shoulder to see where the competition was, he developed a white hot drive and competitive spirit. Gates expected everyone in the company to have the same drive and dedication. One story goes that one of Gatess assistants had come to work early to find someone sleeping under a desk. She considered calling security or the police when she discovered it was Gates.Bill Gatess intelligence allowed him to be able to see all sides of the software industry product development and corporate strategy. When analyzing any corporate move, he would develop a profile of all the possible cases and run through them, asking questions about anything that could possibly happen. His confrontational management style became legend as he would challenge employees and their ideas to keep the creative process going. An unprepared presenter would hear, Thats the stupidest thing Ive ever heard! from Gates. But this was as much a test of the rigor of the employee as it was Gatess passion for his company. He was constantly testing the people around him to see if they were really convinced of their ideas.
Outside the company, Bill Gates was gaining a reputation as a ruthless competitor. Several tech companies led by IBM began to develop their own operating system called OS/2 to replace MS DOS. Rather than give into the pressure, Gates pushed ahead with the Windows software, improving its operation and expanding its uses. In 1989, Microsoft introduced Microsoft Office which bundled office productivity applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel into one system that was compatible with all Microsoft products. The applications were not as easily compatible with OS/2. Microsofts new version of Windows sold 100,000 copies in just two weeks and OS/2 soon faded away. This left Microsoft with a virtual monopoly on operating systems for PCs. Soon the Federal Trade Commission began to investigate Microsoft for unfair marketing practices.Microsoft faced a string of Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department investigations throughout the 1990s. Some related allegations that Microsoft made unfair deals with computer manufactures who installed the Windows operating system on their computers. Other charges involved Microsoft forcing computer manufactures to sell Microsofts Internet Explorer as a condition for selling the Windows operating system with their computers.
At one point, Microsoft faced a possible break up of its two divisions operating systems and software development. Microsoft defended itself, harking back to Bill Gatess earlier battles with software piracy, and proclaiming that such restrictions were a threat to innovation. Eventually, Microsoft was able to find a settlement with the federal government to avoid a breakup. Through it all, Gates found some inventive ways to deflect the pressure with light hearted commercials and public appearances at computer trade shows posing as Star Treks Mr. Spock. Gates continued to run the company and weather the federal investigations through the 1990s.