Bill Gates

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Posted by kaori 03/18/2009 @ 00:07

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News headlines
Pacific Ethanol Units File for Bankruptcy Protection - Wall Street Journal
BY KERRY E. GRACE Pacific, once a high-flying ethanol producer, enticed Bill Gates and hedge-fund manager Paul Touradji as early investors in 2006. But the Sacramento-based ethanol producer has suffered losses due to a downturn in ethanol margins....
FACT CHECK: Are US students really that bad? - Fresno Bee
AP Photo - FILE - In this April 22, 2006, file photo Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, bottom center, is swamped by photographers and cheering students upon his arrival at the Hanoi University of Technology in Hanoi. Gates says the US has slipped from...
Would Bill Gates have aired Laptop Hunters? -
I'm guessing it was made by Steve Ballmer, clearly a more visceral, shoot-from-the-hip guy than Bill Gates. “Would Gates have made the same decision? Possibly not. He may have opted to continue to ignore Apple's inroads and put all his efforts into...
Microsoft's Bill Gates richest - WA today
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is the world's richest man again, overtaking investor Warren Buffett, as the global financial meltdown wiped out $US2 trillion from the net worth of the world's billionaires, Forbes Magazine said. The number of billionaires...
Bill Gates visits Imperial to discuss research with a global impact - Media Newswire (press release)
The philanthropist and personal computing pioneer Bill Gates came to Imperial College London this month to find out more about research into diseases that blight the health of underprivileged populations across the world. ( - The...
K&L Gates loses preferred status as Microsoft law firm - Seattle Times
The law firm K&L Gates, named for Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates' father, has been dropped as one of Microsoft's preferred legal providers... By Sharon Pian Chan The law firm K&L Gates, named for Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates' father, has been dropped...
Meetings, Version 2.0, at Microsoft - New York Times
That's kind of the way I used to like to do it, and the way Bill [Gates] used to kind of like to do it. And it seemed like the best way to do it, because if you went to the conclusion first, you'd get: “What about this? Have you thought about this?...
Medical journal scolds Gates Foundation -
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, founded by Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, is the world's largest private philanthropy with assets of nearly $27.5 billion, as of April 1, 2009. The foundation has three...
Robert Gates says public wants to see 'momentum shifting' in ... - Politico
Noting that Gates usually avoids the spotlight, Couric showed him being mis-introduced as “the honorable Mr. Bill, um Mr. Gates” at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan. “Bill Gates is the rich one,” Gates quipped. Couric said that when Gates – an Eagle...
Dems unclear where Baucus will side on health care reform - Politico
By CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN | 5/18/09 4:16 AM EDT Photo: AP If you have the financial resources of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett you needn't pay money to a health plan each month, since if you get sick or injured – even very seriously - you have more than...

Bill Gates

Bill Gates - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2008 number3.jpg

William Henry "Bill" Gates III (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate, philanthropist, author, and chairman of Microsoft, the software company he founded with Paul Allen. He is ranked consistently one of the world's wealthiest people and the wealthiest overall as of March 2009. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of CEO and chief software architect, and remains the largest individual shareholder with more than 8 percent of the common stock. He has also authored or co-authored several books.

Gates is one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. Although he is admired by many, a large number of industry insiders criticize his business tactics, which they consider anti-competitive, an opinion which has in some cases been upheld by the courts. In the later stages of his career, Gates has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000.

Bill Gates stepped down as chief executive officer of Microsoft in January, 2000. He remained as chairman and created the position of chief software architect. In June, 2006, Gates announced that he would be transitioning from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time work and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He gradually transferred his duties to Ray Ozzie, chief software architect and Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer. Gates's last full-time day at Microsoft was June 27, 2008. He remains at Microsoft as non-executive chairman.

Gates was born in Seattle, Washington, to William H. Gates, Sr. and Mary Maxwell Gates. His family was upper middle class; his father was a prominent lawyer, his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way, and her father, J. W. Maxwell, was a national bank president. Gates has one elder sister, Kristi (Kristianne), and one younger sister, Libby. He was the fourth of his name in his family, but was known as William Gates III or "Trey" because his father had dropped his own "III" suffix. Early on in his life, Gates's parents had a law career in mind for him.

At 13 he enrolled in the Lakeside School, an exclusive preparatory school. When he was in the eighth grade, the Mothers Club at the school used proceeds from Lakeside School's rummage sale to buy an ASR-33 teletype terminal and a block of computer time on a General Electric (GE) computer for the school's students. Gates took an interest in programming the GE system in BASIC and was excused from math classes to pursue his interest. He wrote his first computer program on this machine: an implementation of tic-tac-toe that allowed users to play games against the computer. Gates was fascinated by the machine and how it would always execute software code perfectly. When he reflected back on that moment, he commented on it and said, "There was just something neat about the machine." After the Mothers Club donation was exhausted, he and other students sought time on systems including DEC PDP minicomputers. One of these systems was a PDP-10 belonging to Computer Center Corporation (CCC), which banned four Lakeside students—Gates, Paul Allen, Ric Weiland, and Kent Evans—for the summer after it caught them exploiting bugs in the operating system to obtain free computer time.

At the end of the ban, the four students offered to find bugs in CCC's software in exchange for computer time. Rather than use the system via teletype, Gates went to CCC's offices and studied source code for various programs that ran on the system, including programs in FORTRAN, LISP, and machine language. The arrangement with CCC continued until 1970, when it went out of business. The following year, Information Sciences Inc. hired the four Lakeside students to write a payroll program in COBOL, providing them computer time and royalties. After his administrators became aware of his programming abilities, Gates wrote the school's computer program to schedule students in classes. He modified the code so that he was placed in classes with mostly female students. He later stated that "it was hard to tear myself away from a machine at which I could so unambiguously demonstrate success." At age 17, Gates formed a venture with Allen, called Traf-O-Data, to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor.. In early 1973, Bill Gates served as a congressional page in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Gates graduated from Lakeside School in 1973. He scored 1590 out of 1600 on the SAT and subsequently enrolled at Harvard College in the fall of 1973. Prior to the mid-1990s, a SAT score of 1590 corresponded roughly to an IQ of 170, a figure that has been cited frequently by the press. While at Harvard, he met his future business partner, Steve Ballmer, whom he later appointed as CEO of Microsoft. He also met computer scientist Christos Papadimitriou at Harvard, with whom he collaborated on a paper about pancake sorting. He did not have a definite study plan while a student at Harvard and spent a lot of time using the school's computers. Gates also took the infamously difficult Math 55 class, which he said taught him that there were people smarter than him. He remained in contact with Paul Allen, joining him at Honeywell during the summer of 1974. The following year saw the release of the MITS Altair 8800 based on the Intel 8080 CPU, and Gates and Allen saw this as the opportunity to start their own computer software company. He had talked this decision over with his parents, who were supportive of him after seeing how much Gates wanted to start a company.

After reading the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics that demonstrated the Altair 8800, Gates contacted Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), the creators of the new microcomputer, to inform them that he and others were working on a BASIC interpreter for the platform. In reality, Gates and Allen did not have an Altair and had not written code for it; they merely wanted to gauge MITS's interest. MITS president Ed Roberts agreed to meet them for a demo, and over the course of a few weeks they developed an Altair emulator that ran on a minicomputer, and then the BASIC interpreter. The demonstration, held at MITS's offices in Albuquerque, was a success and resulted in a deal with MITS to distribute the interpreter as Altair BASIC. Paul Allen was hired into MITS, and Gates took a leave of absence from Harvard to work with Allen at MITS in Albuquerque in November 1975. They named their partnership "Micro-Soft" and had their first office located in Albuquerque. Within a year, the hyphen was dropped, and on November 26, 1976, the trade name "Microsoft" was registered with the Office of the Secretary of the State of New Mexico.

Microsoft's BASIC was popular with computer hobbyists, but Gates discovered that a pre-market copy had leaked into the community and was being widely copied and distributed. In February 1976, Gates wrote an Open Letter to Hobbyists in the MITS newsletter saying that MITS could not continue to produce, distribute, and maintain high-quality software without payment. This letter was unpopular with many computer hobbyists, but Gates persisted in his belief that software developers should be able to demand payment. Microsoft became independent of MITS in late 1976, and it continued to develop programming language software for various systems. The company moved from Albuquerque to its new home in Bellevue, Washington on January 1, 1979.

During Microsoft's early years, all employees had broad responsibility for the company's business. Gates oversaw the business details, but continued to write code as well. In the first five years, he personally reviewed every line of code the company shipped, and often rewrote parts of it as he saw fit.

In 1980, IBM approached Microsoft to write the BASIC interpreter for its upcoming personal computer, the IBM PC. When IBM's representatives mentioned that they needed an operating system, Gates referred them to Digital Research (DRI), makers of the widely used CP/M operating system. IBM's discussions with Digital Research went poorly, and they did not reach a licensing agreement. IBM representative Jack Sams mentioned the licensing difficulties during a subsequent meeting with Gates and told him to get an acceptable operating system. A few weeks later Gates proposed using 86-DOS (QDOS), an operating system similar to CP/M that Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer Products (SCP) had made for hardware similar to the PC. Microsoft made a deal with SCP to become the exclusive licensing agent, and later the full owner, of 86-DOS. After adapting the operating system for the PC, Microsoft delivered it to IBM as PC-DOS in exchange for a one-time fee of $50,000. Gates insisted that IBM let Microsoft keep the copyright on the operating system, because he believed that other hardware vendors would clone IBM's system. They did, and the sales of MS-DOS made Microsoft a major player in the industry.

Gates oversaw Microsoft's company restructuring on June 25, 1981, which re-incorporated the company in Washington and made Gates President of Microsoft and the Chairman of the Board. Microsoft launched its first retail version of Microsoft Windows on November 20, 1985, and in August, the company struck a deal with IBM to develop a separate operating system called OS/2. Although the two companies successfully developed the first version of the new system, mounting creative differences undermined the partnership. Gates distributed an internal memo on May 16, 1991 announcing that the OS/2 partnership was over and Microsoft would shift its efforts to the Windows NT kernel development.

From Microsoft's founding in 1975 until 2006, Gates had primary responsibility for the company's product strategy. He aggressively broadened the company's range of products, and wherever Microsoft achieved a dominant position he vigorously defended it.

Gates's role at Microsoft for most of its history was primarily a management and executive role. However, he was an active software developer in the early years, particularly on the company's programming language products. He has not officially been on a development team since working on the TRS-80 Model 100 line, but wrote code as late as 1989 that shipped in the company's products. On June 15, 2006, Gates announced that he would transition out of his day-to-day role over the next two years to dedicate more time to philanthropy. He divided his responsibilities between two successors, placing Ray Ozzie in charge of day-to-day management and Craig Mundie in charge of long-term product strategy.

Early rounds of his deposition show him offering obfuscatory answers and saying 'I don't recall,' so many times that even the presiding judge had to chuckle. Worse, many of the technology chief's denials and pleas of ignorance were directly refuted by prosecutors with snippets of e-mail Gates both sent and received.

Gates later said that he had simply resisted attempts by Boies to mischaracterize his words and actions. As to his demeanor during the deposition, he said, "Did I fence with Boies? ... I plead guilty. Whatever that penalty is should be levied against me: rudeness to Boies in the first degree." Despite Gates's denials, the judge ruled that Microsoft had committed monopolization and tying, blocking competition, in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Bill Gates decided in 2008 to appear in at least one commercial in a series of ads to promote Microsoft. This commercial, co-starring Jerry Seinfeld, is a 90-second talk between strangers as Seinfeld walks up on a discount shoe store (Shoe Circus) in a mall and notices Bill Gates buying shoes inside. The salesman is trying to sell Mr. Gates shoes that are a size too big. Mr. Seinfeld begins to inform him about a pair of shoes called Conquistadors that run "a little tight" and sells him on them in a size 10 (whereas the store clerk was attempting an 11). As Mr. Gates is buying the shoes he holds up his discount card, this card uses a slightly altered version of his own mugshot of his arrest in New Mexico in 1977 for a traffic violation. As they are walking out of the mall, Jerry Seinfeld asks Bill Gates if he has melded his mind to other developers, after getting a yes, he then asks if they are working on a way to make computers edible, again getting a yes. Some say that this is an homage to Mr. Seinfeld's own show about "nothing" (Seinfeld).

Gates married Melinda French from Dallas, Texas on January 1, 1994. They have three children: Jennifer Katharine(1996), Rory John(1999) and Phoebe Adele(2002). The Gateses' home is an earth-sheltered house in the side of a hill overlooking Lake Washington in Medina, Washington. According to King County public records, as of 2006 the total assessed value of the property (land and house) is $125 million, and the annual property tax is $991,000. Also among Gates's private acquisitions is the Codex Leicester, a collection of writings by Leonardo da Vinci, which Gates bought for $30.8 million at an auction in 1994. Gates is also known as an avid reader, and the ceiling of his large home library is engraved with a quotation from The Great Gatsby. He also enjoys playing bridge, tennis, and golf.

Gates was number one on the "Forbes 400" list from 1993 through to 2007 and number one on Forbes list of "The World's Richest People" from 1995 to 2007 and 2009. In 1999, Gates's wealth briefly surpassed $101 billion, causing the media to call him a "centibillionaire". Since 2000, the nominal value of his Microsoft holdings has declined due to a fall in Microsoft's stock price after the dot-com bubble burst and the multi-billion dollar donations he has made to his charitable foundations. In a May 2006 interview, Gates commented that he wished that he were not the richest man in the world because he disliked the attention it brought. Gates has several investments outside Microsoft, which in 2006 paid him a salary of $616,667, and $350,000 bonus totalling $966,667. He founded Corbis, a digital imaging company, in 1989. In 2004 he became a director of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment company headed by long-time friend Warren Buffett.

Gates began to realize the expectations others had of him when public opinion mounted that he could give more of his wealth to charity. Gates studied the work of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller and in 1994 sold some of his Microsoft stock to create the William H. Gates Foundation. In 2000, Gates and his wife combined three family foundations into one to create the charitable Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is the largest transparently operated charitable foundation in the world. The foundation is set up to allow benefactors access to how its money is being spent, unlike other major charitable organizations such as the Wellcome Trust. The generosity and extensive philanthropy of David Rockefeller has been credited as a major influence. Gates and his father have met with Rockefeller several times and have modeled their giving in part on the Rockefeller family's philanthropic focus, namely those global problems that are ignored by governments and other organizations. As of 2007 Bill and Melinda Gates were the second most generous philanthropist in America, having given over $28 billion to charity.

The foundation has also received criticism because it invests the assets that it has not yet distributed, with the exclusive goal of maximizing the return on investment. As a result, its investments include companies that have been criticized for worsening poverty in the same developing countries where the Foundation is attempting to relieve poverty. These include companies that pollute heavily and pharmaceutical companies that do not sell into the developing world. In response to press criticism, the foundation announced in 2007 a review of its investments to assess social responsibility. It subsequently cancelled the review and stood by its policy of investing for maximum return, while using voting rights to influence company practices.

Time magazine named Gates one of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th century, as well as one of the 100 most influential people of 2004, 2005, and 2006. Time also collectively named Gates, his wife Melinda and alternative rock band U2's lead singer Bono as the 2005 Persons of the Year for their humanitarian efforts. In 2006, he was voted eighth in the list of "Heroes of our time". Gates was listed in the Sunday Times power list in 1999, named CEO of the year by Chief Executive Officers magazine in 1994, ranked number one in the "Top 50 Cyber Elite" by Time in 1998, ranked number two in the Upside Elite 100 in 1999 and was included in The Guardian as one of the "Top 100 influential people in media" in 2001.

Gates has received honorary doctorates from Nyenrode Business Universiteit, Breukelen, The Netherlands in 2000, the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden in 2002, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan in 2005, Harvard University in June 2007, and from Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, in January 2008. Gates was also made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005, in addition to having entomologists name the Bill Gates flower fly, Eristalis gatesi, in his honor.

In November 2006, he and his wife were awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle for their philanthropic work around the world in the areas of health and education, particularly in Mexico, and specifically in the program "Un país de lectores".

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Bill Gates' flower fly

Eristalis gatesi.jpg

Bill Gates' flower fly (Eristalis gatesi Thompson) is a flower fly found only in Costa Rican high montane cloud forests and named after Bill Gates. Another fly found in similar habitats was named after Gates' associate Paul Allen, called Paul Allen's flower fly (Eristalis alleni); according to the US Department of Agriculture's Systematic Entomology Laboratory, both names were in "recognition of great contributions to the science of Dipterology".

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Bill Gates's house

Bill Gates's house as seen from Lake Washington.

Bill Gates' house is a large earth-sheltered mansion in the side of a hill overlooking Lake Washington in Medina, Washington. The house is noted for its design and the technology it incorporates. It is nicknamed Xanadu 2.0.

According to, the total assessed value of the property (land and house) is $153,586,700 and the annual property tax for 2006 was $1,012,320. Seattle Weekly reports the 2008 tax jumped to $1.06 million and the home's assessed value to $147.5 million.

The house is a modern design in the Pacific lodge style, with classic features such as a large private library with a dome shaped roof and oculus (light well). The house also features an estate-wide server system running Windows, and heated floors and driveways. Guests wear pins that upon entrance of a room automatically adjust temperature, music, and lighting based on the guest's preferences.

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Criticism of Microsoft

The entrance to Microsoft's Redmond campus

Criticism of Microsoft has followed various aspects of its products and business practices. Issues with ease of use, stability, and security of the company's software are common targets for critics. In the 2000s, a number of malware attacks have targeted security flaws in Microsoft Windows and other programs. Microsoft is also accused of locking vendors and consumers into their products, and of not following and complying with existing standards in its software. Total cost of ownership comparisons of Linux as well as Mac OS X to Windows are a continuous point of debate.

The company has been in numerous lawsuits by several governments and other companies for unlawful monopolistic practices. In 2004, the European Union found Microsoft guilty in the European Union Microsoft competition case. Additionally, Microsoft's EULA for some of its programs is often criticized as being too restrictive.

From its inception, Microsoft defined itself as a platform company and understood the importance of attracting third-party programmers. It did so by providing development tools, training, access to proprietary APIs in early versions, and partner programs. The solutions and plugins built by third-party programmers in turn led to more Microsoft sales. Although the resulting ubiquity of Microsoft software allows a user to benefit from network effects, critics decry what they consider to be an "embrace, extend and extinguish" strategy by Microsoft of adding proprietary features to open standards, thereby using its market dominance to gain de facto ownership of standards "extended" in this way. For example, the large installation base of Microsoft Word makes Word files the de facto standard word-processor format. In addition, more potential employees have training in Microsoft Office than on competing products. Hence using Office can result in reduced training requirements, especially in the case of temporary employment. However, the file formats of Word and other programs were not an open standard, and even the introduction of the Ecma International standardized Office Open XML format is sometimes criticized as not being as open as the OpenDocument format.

One of the earliest criticisms of Microsoft stemmed from its decision to market its software independently of the hardware it ran on by asserting copyright to the software and licensing it under terms similar to music. Software copyright was a legal novelty at the time, and controversial. When Microsoft discovered that its first product, Altair BASIC, was subject to widespread illegal copying, Microsoft founder Bill Gates wrote an Open Letter to Hobbyists that openly accused many hobbyists of stealing software. Gates's letter provoked many responses, with some hobbyists objecting to the broad accusation, and others supporting the principle of compensation. This disagreement over whether software should be proprietary continues into the present day under the banner of the free software movement, with Microsoft characterizing free software released under the terms of the GPL as being "potentially viral" and the GNU General Public License itself as a "viral license" which "infects" proprietary software and forces its developer to have to release proprietary source to the public.

The Halloween documents, internal Microsoft memos which were leaked to the open source community beginning in 1998, indicate that some Microsoft employees perceive "open source" software — in particular, Linux — as a growing long-term threat to Microsoft's position in the software industry. The Halloween documents acknowledged that parts of Linux are superior to the versions of Microsoft Windows available at the time, and outlined a strategy of "de-commoditize protocols & applications." Microsoft stated in its 2006 Annual Report that it was a defendant in at least 35 patent infringement lawsuits. The company's litigation expenses for April 2004 through March 2007 exceed $4.3 billion: over $4 billion in payouts, plus $300 million in legal fees.

Another concern of critics is that Microsoft may be using the distribution of shared source software to harvest names of developers who have been exposed to Microsoft code, as some believe that these developers could someday be the target of lawsuits if they were ever to participate in the development of competing products. This issue is addressed in published papers from several organizations including the American Bar Association and the Open Source Initiative.

Starting in the 1990s, Microsoft was accused of maintaining "hidden" or "secret" APIs: interfaces to its operating system software that it deliberately keeps undocumented to gain a competitive advantage in its application software products. Microsoft employees have consistently denied this; they claim that application developers inside and outside Microsoft routinely reverse-engineered DOS and 16-bit versions of Windows without any inside help, creating legacy support problems that far exceeded any alleged benefit to Microsoft. In response to court orders, Microsoft has published interfaces between components of its operating system software, including components like Internet Explorer, Active Directory, and Windows Media that sell as part of Windows but compete with application software.

A common complaint comes from those who want to purchase a computer without a copy of Windows pre-installed because they intend to use another operating system such as Linux or BSD instead. Apple Inc. has always marketed home computers with their own non-Microsoft but proprietary operating system. More recently many other computer manufacturers have begun to offer specific product ranges with Linux pre-installed. These include Lenovo, Dell, Acer, MSI, Intel and others. Nonetheless, all large computer vendors continue to bundle Microsoft Windows with the majority of the personal computers in their ranges. The Findings of Fact in the United States Microsoft antitrust case established that "One of the ways Microsoft combats piracy is by advising OEMs that they will be charged a higher price for Windows unless they drastically limit the number of PCs that they sell without an operating system pre-installed. In 1998, all major OEMs agreed to this restriction." This has been called the "Windows tax" or "Microsoft tax".

The 2002 settlement in the United States Microsoft antitrust case prohibits Microsoft from giving special prices to select vendors, which resulted in the price list becoming public and based on volume sold, with discounts for features provided by the distributor. These features can include the provision of a Firewire port or the placement of a Microsoft logo sticker on the computer. Discounts such as these are a source of controversy for both Microsoft and Intel.

This problem can be avoided by purchasing a computer without Windows or by buying a white box machine. Finding such a system from a major OEM may prove challenging however; while some vendors sell certain models bundled with Linux, these may be limited to high-end workstations and enterprise servers, or budget, domestic models. Dell sells Linux preinstalled on home systems, but it is only offered on a limited number of models and configurations and Dell also explicitly warns prospective buyers that "The main thing to note is that when you choose open source you don’t get a Windows operating system.". Some smaller OEMs and larger retail chains such as system76 have taken advantage of the paucity of non-Windows offerings by major suppliers by specializing in Linux-based systems. Some Linux distributors also run 'partnership' programs to endorse suppliers of machines with their system preinstalled.

An end user can return Windows for a refund by refusing to agree to the Microsoft End User License Agreement. The Microsoft EULA specifically mentions that if you do not agree to the license you can return the product for a full refund. Vendors may have a policy of charging for the provision of the refund such that the balance received by the customer is as low as $10, despite this being a violation of consumer protection law in many countries. A certain number of customers were refunded of their Windows licence, whether using the EULA or not, whether through an agreement or through court.

An acquisition nearly took place in 1995 when Microsoft announced its intent to conduct a hostile takeover of Intuit, Inc., the maker of Quicken, which competed with its own product Microsoft Money. After a campaign by attorney Gary Reback and complaints to the Federal Trade Commission, Microsoft eventually dropped the takeover plans.

Microsoft's market dominance has attracted widespread resentment, which is not necessarily restricted to the company's competitors. In a 2003 publication, Dan Geer argued the prevalence of Microsoft products has resulted in a monoculture which is dangerously easy for viruses to exploit. However, numerous defences have been waged against this argument, including the idea that if machines can be patched from the threats it has much less of an effect.

While Microsoft has historically treated employees very well, Microsoft has received several complaints about their treatment of employees. This includes the use of permatemp employees (employees employed for years as "temporary," and therefore without medical benefits), use of forced retention tactics, where departing employees would be sued to prevent departure, as well as more traditional cost-saving measures, ranging from cutting medical benefits, to not providing towels in company locker rooms.

A (US) state lawsuit was brought against Microsoft in 1992 representing 8,558 current and former employees that had been classified as "temporary" and "freelance", and became known as "Vizcaino v. Microsoft". In 1993, the suit became a US Federal Class Action in the United States District Court Western District Of Washington At Seattle as No. C93-178C. The Final Settlement came in 2005. The case was decided on the (IRS-defined) basis that such "permatemps" had their jobs defined by Microsoft, worked alongside regular employees doing the same work, and worked for long terms. After a series of court setbacks including 3 reversals on appeal, Microsoft settled the suit for about US $92.730 million.

A side effect of the "permatemp" lawsuit is that now contract employees are prevented from participating in team morale events and other activities that could be construed as making them "employees". They are also limited to one year contracts and must leave after that time for 100 days before returning under contract.

Microsoft is the largest American corporate user of H-1B guest worker visas and has joined other large technology companies like Google, recently lobbied for looser H1-B visa restrictions.

Microsoft contributes money to several think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution. Critics allege that while giving the appearance of neutral third parties these organizations work to undermine Microsoft's competitors, for example stating "open-source software may offer target for terrorists".

In August 2004, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of the United Kingdom ordered Microsoft to stop a run of print ads that claimed that the total cost of ownership of Linux servers was ten times that of Windows Server 2003. The comparison included the cost of hardware, and put Linux at a disadvantage by installing it on more expensive but poorer-performing hardware compared to that used for Windows.

In the 1980s, the company was notorious for keeping Nixonian lists regarding journalists on a whiteboard showing which were "Okay," "Sketchy," or "Needs work." Some believed that those in the last category would be the target of the company in an effort to get them fired. I myself was on a Microsoft blacklist for some totally unknown reason and was not allowed any information about an early version of Windows, apparently because I was considered uncooperative. I only found out about this because of documents unearthed during the discovery process of the Comes v. Microsoft lawsuit in Iowa. threats from the company did manage to get me removed as a licensed columnist in PC Magazine Italy.

Microsoft has also come under criticism for developing software capable of analyzing the output of remote sensors in order to measure the competence and productivity of workers based on their physical responses.

Microsoft has recently come under some criticism for its attitude to homosexuality and Xbox Live. Users may not use the string "gay" in a gamertag (even legitimately, for example as part of a surname), or refer to homosexuality in their profile (including self-identifying as such), as the company considers this "content of a sexual nature" or "offensive" to other users and therefore unsuitable for the service. After banning 'Teresa', a lesbian gamer who had been harassed by other users for being gay, this policy gained wide condemnation. A senior Xbox Live team member has clarified its policy, stating that "Expression of any sexual orientation is not allowed in gamertags" but that they are "examining how we can provide it in a way that wont get misused".

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Source : Wikipedia