Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is an icon of American capitalism, technological innovation, and shareholder wealth creation. Yet even though more than 30 investment firms cover the stock's every move -- and millions of investors around the world follow the company daily -- there are some interesting aspects of Microsoft's history of which many people are not aware.
Here are seven things about Microsoft you may not yet know.
1. From $15,000 to $90 billion
When Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was a Harvard freshman back in 1974, his resume listed a starting salary of $15,000. But rather than graduate and head off in search of a corporate job, he quit school to co-found Microsoft. Gates would become the youngest billionaire in the world in 1987 at the age of 31, shortly after Microsoft's IPO. Today, he has a net worth of $91.8 billion, according to Forbes.
2. Microsoft's original name for its operating system was "Interface Manager"
Fortunately, "Windows" eventually won out. Microsoft would go on to sell hundreds of millions of licenses of its now ubiquitous operating system (OS), generating billions of dollars of profits along the way.
3. Bill Gates may have created the first... um... social app
While attending high school, Bill Gates wrote a more efficient scheduling program for his principal. Yet unbeknownst to school officials, the program also contained a benefit for Gates: It placed him in classes with the most female students.
Gates would go on to find love years later and is now happily married to his wife Melinda. Together, they run The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which serves as the epicenter of their philanthropic efforts.
4. One of the best stock-market investments of all time
Since its IPO on March 13, 1986, Microsoft's stock has risen more than 90,000%. Even better, when factoring in dividends paid to shareholders, Microsoft's stock has delivered total returns of over 135,000%.
5. The millionaire maker
Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering its staggering growth, Microsoft is believed to have created at least two billionaires other than Gates -- including co-founder Paul Allen and former CEO Steve Ballmer -- as well as more than 12,000 millionaires.
6. Still, Microsoft has made its share of mistakes
Just months before Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006, Microsoft passed on the opportunity to purchase it for less than a third of the price. A decade later, YouTube is one of Google's most powerful growth drivers, with some analysts valuing the popular video-sharing site at as much as $75 billion.
Microsoft also launched some of the first smartphones and tablet computers on the market. But these early devices met with lackluster demand, and Microsoft squandered its first-mover advantage. Years later, archrival Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) launched its category-defining iPhone and iPad devices. Apple would go on to sell hundreds of millions of these products, becoming the most valuable company in the world in the process.
7. Respected adversaries
The competition between Microsoft and Apple also made rivals out of their founders. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates often had very different worldviews. Jobs thought Gates was too narrowly focused on business. In fact, Jobs once said that Gates would be "a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger."
Gates, meanwhile, didn't think much of Jobs' tech skills, but he did admire his intuition when it came to design. "He really never knew much about technology, but he had an amazing instinct for what works," Gates said.
In the end, Gates and Jobs respected each other. And their competition would help spur the growth of two of the most powerful businesses the world has ever seen.