How Microsoft Windows came to dominate PC operating systems


From solitaire and its iconic start button and startup sounds, to productivity apps, games and business computing, Windows has changed the way we use computers. CNBC looks back on more than three decades of Windows and how it became the dominant PC operating system in the world.

Microsoft Windows debuted in 1985, and for the past two decades has been the dominant PC operating system in the world. In 2020, Windows held nearly 83% of the market share by unit shipments, while Google Chrome OS held 10% and Apple’s Mac OS 7%, according to research firm Gartner.

From its iconic Start button and startup sounds to support for business software and video games, Windows has changed the way we use computers. Windows 95 has allowed the company to dominate the personal computing market. Microsoft has introduced many versions of Windows since its inception, some more well received than others. It competes with IBM, Apple and Google for market share. According to Microsoft, more than 1.3 billion devices run Windows 10 globally every month.

Today, Windows only accounts for 14% of Microsoft’s total revenue, but remains a vital part of the business. The company just announced the latest version, Windows 11.

CNBC spoke with former Microsoft employees, including Terry Myerson, Michael Cherry, Brad Silverberg, and Tandy Trower, to look back on more than three decades of Windows. Watch the video to learn more.


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