I’ve never been quite sure what a ‘platform’ is. The word gets used a lot – in fact it’s in nearly every press release I see – but I’ve always thought it a bit like ‘ecosystem’ – vague, woolly and bolloxy.

However now there’s a book out which explains the platform concept rather well.

Called Platform Revolution, the book points up the difference between early Apple products – closed, proprietary and unconnectable with other products – which were examples of a “pipelined” business and Microsoft’s model of the PC industry in which everyone could, theoretically, join and which is called a “platform” business.

I say “theoretically” because, although everyone could join in the PC industry, MS and Intel took 90% of the profit.

But let not that spoil the concept of pipeline vs platform.

In later years, say the book’s authors, Apple realised that platform was the better option and launched iTunes and the App Store to convert its hardware products into platforms.

Even so this Apple platform, which ostensibly allows others into Apple’s playpen, does not stop Apple taking 92% of the profits of the handset industry.

So being a platform business doesn’t exclude being a quasi-monopoly.

But it’s a networked quasi-monopoly in which hundreds or thousands of serf suppliers work to add value to the platform.

In other words it’s a wheeze to get loads of people to work to boost your business in return for very little for themselves.

No wonder everyone wants a platform



  1. I think that’s the best strategy, neitherstnorste – for the time being anyway.

  2. Ah Yes I see what you mean, neitherstnorste, no names no pack drill.

  3. Well, neitherstnorste, wouldn’t that apply to nearly all SoCs?

    • EXACTLY. and that’s why those who do not follow such a golden rule (platforms platforms platforms) are shrinking , disappearing, losing money, reputation etc etc. I will leave to you the pleasure of quoting some og them 🙂

  4. Actually, BringBackGermanium, I was really thinking that Apple’s first platform product was the iPod because it had the iTunes store attached and that brought a host of outside people in to be part of the ‘platform’. Trouble is the word platform is so wishy-washy now that anyone can shoot this definition down. But if a platform is an agglomeration of different companies and people supporting a common standard then, IMHO, iPod with iTunes was Apple’s first product which conformed to it.

  5. To me a platform is a product/deliverable where, in addition to own core product/service, a Company adds/complements with non-core deliverables usable as a kind of baseline framework for the end-user product.
    It may sound vague but if applied to semiconductors, it (apparently?) clearly allows some interesting Company classification between winners and losers…

  6. IMHO definitions are for the birds, Roger, ‘Platform’, like ‘System’ ‘Ecosystem’ or ‘Solution’, might have been definable at one time but all these words are now used so loosely they’re meaningless.

  7. BringBackGermanium

    When you say ‘early Apple products’, you mean early Apple products after the Apple II. The Apple II had open interfaces, and many other companies made compatible products. The Apple II was even second-sourced (not very effectively and with some differences, by ITT in Europe).

    After that, everything went downhill until the company was run by accountants and lawyers, and started suing its competitors for copying Apple features that Apple had not invented. (Xerox PARC, anyone?)

  8. Right on Terry, I’m already looking around for some Gucci shoes with tassels, a chunky gold bracelet and a medallion and will book an appointment to have my hair permed.

  9. David,

    I think you should check with Jim Turley about what a platform is and not. He wrote about this and other definitions of buzzwords used long time ago.

  10. I claim credit for the elbow-grease but none for the turd, AnotherDave

  11. Don’t know about Paap, Terry? I’m amazed. I thought everyone had internalised the strategic aim of targeting integrated infrastructures exploiting supply-based consolidation to achieve scalable and agile solutions for best in class results.

    • “…everyone had internalised the strategic aim of targeting integrated infrastructures exploiting supply-based consolidation to achieve scalable and agile solutions for best in class results.”

      Outstanding. Well done. Did you do the polishing on that one or is it borrowed? Either way, there’s a sheen to behold on that turd.

    • “everyone had internalised the strategic aim of targeting…..” fantastic stuff David, a career as a management guru awaits, allowing you to monetize this key domain knowledge, going forward of course.

  12. Yes Terry, I was impressed when the 1997 MEDEA EU R&D programme came up with the idea of developing standard cell ICs which could be used for multiple applications. ST, Philips and Infineon did very well commercially from the development. They called that a platform. You’d think, nearly 20 years later, there’d be something new.

  13. Platform is also a term of using the same basic hardware for multiple products like in the car industry where the same suspension and drivetrain might serve several models that look outwardly very different. But it has become misused as a sort of buzzword that can lead to making a product that tries to address too many markets and ends up being bloated and expensive.

  14. Well it’s a lot more attractive in its Urban Dictionary manifestation than in its BS techie PR sense, The Baron

  15. Wizard, Dr Bob

  16. The answer can be found on platform 9 3/4

  17. Good thinking, one has to be careful with the lady rellies, SEPAM, as for PaaP and PaaS they show that the creativity of our marketeers Is unconstrained by common sense. I think all this crap is made up by teenage PR girls.

  18. SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

    When I hear of platforms in this sense I always think of platform shoes: outrageous and silly. Not sure I should link to pictures here – that depends on wife and daughter being out on holidays I guess.

    Now that people seriously task about PaaP (Platform as a Platform) it must have taken a full turn into never never land. PaaS (Platform as a Service) was just the step before the madness.

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