What is a platform?

The term "platform" seems to be bandied about fairly regularly.  It is one of those terms that has captured business notoriety and now pops up in discussions about social networking, SaaS, Computing, even media integrations. 

As a Platform Evangelist, I’m thrilled.

As a Platform Evangelist, I am also concerned about confusion.

How do I define a platform?

As a technologist, with a background focused heavily in database design, I used to think of platform in solely technical terms.  Usually this would end up something like (and I copy this directly from a recent e-mail) discussing this topic:

A series of hardware and software components, a framework if you will, that allows applications to be quickly built and deployed.

Technically correct. . .but rather limiting.  Instead, I’ve spent a bit of time ruminating (and discussing ad nauseam) about expansion of the above definition to provide something inherently more accurate and more understandable to a business user.

So far, I am testing the following:

A platform is a technology solution specifically designed to address a market need.  In the process it generates value for all participants in the platform.

Interestingly, I felt somewhat encouraged in my experiment when reading a blog post by umair at BubbleGeneration today.  The entirety can be found here (I highly encourage reading)…

Monetize is an ugly word.
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But that’s not how the edgeconomy works. Businesses need what connected consumers have to give more than connected consumers need what businesses have to sell.

Let’s put that a little more formally. Monetization is ugly because it blinds us to the truth that value must flow in many directions. That’s the essence of edge strategy, in fact.

"value must flow in many directions"

In its simplest form, a platform must create value for the ecosystem, or the participants, that leverage that platform in order to conduct business.  Regardless of sector…social, media, or even commerce.

I will continue these thoughts with examples of successful platforms over the next few days.

What’s your perspective? Agree? Disagree? Anything to add? Critiques?
The comment form is below. . .

March 20, 2008

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