Bill Gates Image Gallery
Bill Gates Image Gallery

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has defined how we use computers. See more Bill Gates pictures.

StephaNe De Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

Microsoft is a software company. It makes money by selling its software for use on computers.

That's an accurate summary, but it doesn't tell anywhere near the whole story. It doesn't tell you that Microsoft is a business empire without equal, that its products are used in nearly every computer on the planet, or that it has yet to reach the height of its power and influence. Microsoft has become a symbol of all that is great about the information age, as well as all that is less-than-great about it.

Although you may find yourself cursing the "evil empire" when your system crashes, or when you spend money on another upgrade, Microsoft is unsurpassed when it comes to powering information technology. Whether by cunning, innovation, determination, or a mix of these qualities, Bill Gates' Microsoft has defined how we use computers since the first IBM PC rolled out in 1981 with Microsoft's MS-DOS in its innards.

­So Microsoft rules the world, but just what does it do, anyway? In this article, we'll take a look at the history of Microsoft and find out how it competes in the market. We'll also explore how Microsoft's corporate culture factors into its success. Finally, we'll look at Microsoft products to find out how they benefit from the company's core advantages.