Is Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) One of the Best Companies in America? – Nokia Corporation (ADR) (NOK), Research In Motion Ltd (BBRY)

And yet that may be the minority. So prolific was Microsoft’s rise in the years following a 1986 initial public offering that it created a whole class of workers called, quite literally, “Microsoft millionaires.” More than 12,000 are said to exist, and that includes three of the world’s richest men: co-founders Gates and Allen plus Ballmer.

Meanwhile, those who invested in Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s darkest days of spring 1998 — when the Justice Department announced plans to go after the company — have seen their shares rise five-fold, easily beating the broader market.

While the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is an entity unto itself, there’s no mistaking the Microsoft co-founder’s influence when it comes to philanthropy. Not only is Gates putting his own billions to use, he’s persuaded Warren Buffett to join his cause and the pair have since convinced 11 other billionaires to sign a pledge promising to give away substantial fortunes for the good of all.

The case against Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)
Influence matters in investing, no doubt. But so does focus, and few companies have proven as aimless as Microsoft over the past decade. A half-hearted try at the cloud led Ozzie out the door even as Mr. Softy’s fixation on features led to Zune and Vista — functional but unintuitive products that couldn’t stand up against simpler alternatives. Sales slumped as a result, and we don’t yet know enough about Windows 8 to judge if Microsoft has learned its lesson.

Can Mr. Softy still make you a mint?
Even though Microsoft didn’t end up making the Best 25 list, its market position, loyal workforce, and (mostly) good history of delivering for shareholders — a position that, today, is ensured by a dividend that yields more than 3% as of this writing — strongly suggest the company deserved the distinction of being one of our 40 or so finalists.

The article Is Microsoft One of the Best Companies in America? originally appeared on and is written by Tim Beyers.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim’s web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a covered bull call spread position in Apple.

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