2014–2020: Windows 10, Microsoft Edge, HoloLens
On February 4, 2014, Steve Ballmer stepped down as CEO of Microsoft and was succeeded by Satya Nadella, who previously led Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise division. On the same day, John W. Thompson took on the role of chairman, in place of Bill Gates, who continued to participate as a technology advisor. Thompson became the second chairman in Microsoft’s history. On April 25, 2014, Microsoft acquired Nokia Devices and Services for $7.2 billion. This new subsidiary was renamed Microsoft Mobile Oy. On September 15, 2014, Microsoft acquired the video game development company Mojang, best known for Minecraft, for $2.5 billion. On June 8, 2017, Microsoft acquired Hexadite, an Israeli security firm, for $100 million.
On January 21, 2015, Microsoft announced the release of their first Interactive whiteboard, Microsoft Surface Hub. On July 29, 2015, Windows 10 was released, with its server sibling, Windows Server 2016, released in September 2016. In Q1 2015, Microsoft was the third largest maker of mobile phones, selling 33 million units (7.2% of all). While a large majority (at least 75%) of them do not run any version of Windows Phone— those other phones are not categorized as smartphones by Gartner – in the same time frame 8 million Windows smartphones (2.5% of all smartphones) were made by all manufacturers (but mostly by Microsoft). Microsoft’s share of the U.S. smartphone market in January 2016 was 2.7%. During the summer of 2015 the company lost $7.6 billion related to its mobile-phone business, firing 7,800 employees.
On March 1, 2016, Microsoft announced the merger of its PC and Xbox divisions, with Phil Spencer announcing that Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps would be the focus for Microsoft’s gaming in the future. On January 24, 2017, Microsoft showcased Intune for Education at the BETT 2017 education technology conference in London. Intune for Education is a new cloud-based application and device management service for the education sector. In May 2016, the company announced it was laying off 1,850 workers, and taking an impairment and restructuring charge of $950 million.
In June 2016, Microsoft announced a project named Microsoft Azure Information Protection. It aims to help enterprises protect their data as it moves between servers and devices. In November 2016, Microsoft joined the Linux Foundation as a Platinum member during Microsoft’s Connect(); developer event in New York. The cost of each Platinum membership is US$500,000 per year. Some analysts deemed this unthinkable ten years prior, however, as in 2001 then-CEO Steve Ballmer called Linux “cancer”. Microsoft planned to launch a preview of Intune for Education “in the coming weeks”, with general availability scheduled for spring 2017, priced at $30 per device, or through volume licensing agreements.
In January 2018, Microsoft patched Windows 10 to account for CPU problems related to Intel’s Meltdown security breach. The patch led to issues with the Microsoft Azure virtual machines reliant on Intel’s CPU architecture. On January 12, Microsoft released PowerShell Core 6.0 for the macOS and Linux operating systems. In February 2018, Microsoft killed notification support for their Windows Phone devices which effectively ended firmware updates for the discontinued devices.
In March 2018, Microsoft recalled Windows 10 S to change it to a mode for the Windows operating system rather than a separate and unique operating system. In March the company also established guidelines that censor users of Office 365 from using profanity in private documents.
In April 2018, Microsoft released the source code for Windows File Manager under the MIT License to celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary. In April the company further expressed willingness to embrace open source initiatives by announcing Azure Sphere as its own derivative of the Linux operating system. In May 2018, Microsoft partnered with 17 American intelligence agencies to develop cloud computing products. The project is dubbed “Azure Government” and has ties to the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) surveillance program. On June 4, 2018, Microsoft officially announced the acquisition of GitHub for $7.5 billion, a deal that closed on October 26, 2018. On July 10, 2018, Microsoft revealed the Surface Go platform to the public. Later in the month it converted Microsoft Teams to gratis. In August 2018, Microsoft released two projects called Microsoft AccountGuard and Defending Democracy. It also unveiled Snapdragon 850 compatibility for Windows 10 on the ARM architecture.
In August 2018, Toyota Tsusho began a partnership with Microsoft to create fish farming tools using the Microsoft Azure application suite for Internet of things (IoT) technologies related to water management. Developed in part by researchers from Kindai University, the water pump mechanisms use artificial intelligence to count the number of fish on a conveyor belt, analyze the number of fish, and deduce the effectiveness of water flow from the data the fish provide.
The specific computer programs used in the process fall under the Azure Machine Learning and the Azure IoT Hub platforms. In September 2018, Microsoft discontinued Skype Classic. On October 10, 2018, Microsoft joined the Open Invention Network community despite holding more than 60,000 patents. In November 2018, Microsoft agreed to supply 100,000 Microsoft HoloLens headsets to the United States military in order to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy.” In November 2018, Microsoft introduced Azure Multi-Factor Authentication for Microsoft Azure. In December 2018, Microsoft announced Project Mu, an open source release of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) core used in Microsoft Surface and Hyper-V products. The project promotes the idea of Firmware as a Service. In the same month, Microsoft announced the open source implementation of Windows Forms and the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) which will allow for further movement of the company toward the transparent release of key frameworks used in developing Windows desktop applications and software. December also saw the company discontinue the Microsoft Edge project in favor of Chromium backends for their browsers.
February 20, 2019 Microsoft Corp said it will offer its cyber security service AccountGuard to 12 new markets in Europe including Germany, France and Spain, to close security gaps and protect customers in political space from hacking.
In February 2019, hundreds of Microsoft employees protested the company’s war profiteering from a $480 million contract to develop virtual reality headsets for the United States Army.
2020–present: Acquisitions, Xbox Series X/S
On March 26, 2020, Microsoft announced it was acquiring Affirmed Networks for about $1.35 billion.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft closed all of its retail stores indefinitely due to health concerns.
On July 22, 2020, Microsoft announced plans to close its Mixer service, planning to move existing partners to Facebook Gaming.
On July 31, 2020, it was reported that Microsoft was in talks to acquire TikTok after the Trump administration ordered ByteDance to divest ownership of the application to the U.S.
On August 3, 2020, after speculation on the deal, Donald Trump stated that Microsoft could buy the application, however it should be completed by September 15, 2020 and that the United States Department of the Treasury should receive a portion if it were to go through.
On August 5, 2020, Microsoft stopped its xCloud game streaming test for iOS devices. According to Microsoft, the future of xCloud on iOS remains unclear and potentially out of Microsoft’s hands. Apple has imposed a strict limit on “remote desktop clients” that means applications are only allowed to connect to a user-owned host device or gaming console owned by the user.
On September 21, 2020, Microsoft announced its intent to acquire ZeniMax Media for about $7.5 billion, with the deal expected to be occurred in the second half of 2021 fiscal year.
On September 22, 2020, Microsoft announced that it had an exclusive license to use OpenAI’s GPT-3 artificial intelligence language generator. The previous version of GPT-3, called GPT-2, made headlines for being “too dangerous to release” and had numerous capabilities, including designing websites, prescribing medication, answering questions and penning articles.
On November 10, 2020, Microsoft released the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S video game consoles.
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