Yesterday, Microsoft shareholders approved the software giant's stock compensation plan, paving the way for the largest dividend payout in US corporate history. On December 2, Microsoft will pay a $3-per-share dividend to all its shareholders of record as of November 17. The plan was announced this past July.
  
The payout, which passed with 94 percent of shareholders agreeing to the plan, will cost the company about $32 billion. However, Microsoft currently commands a cash and cash-like hoard estimated at more than $64 billion.
  
The decision to back the company's stock dividend payout plan came at Microsoft's annual shareholders meeting. During the event, company executives discussed future growth prospects, including Internet search and the Xbox. This week, Microsoft will unveil a second beta version of its MSN Search portal. And yesterday, Microsoft's week-long rollout of the eagerly anticipated Halo 2 Xbox title began. The company says it expects first-day sales of the title to exceed $100 million--not bad for a game that took 2 years and $50 million to develop.
  
"Our ability to deliver a continuing stream of innovative new products and services to our customers makes me more optimistic than ever about the years ahead," Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said. "We're delivering exciting new innovations in growth markets such as digital entertainment, mobile devices, and gaming, while continuing to help enterprises of every size become more productive and competitive."