It’s all about platforms

This is my theme of the year 2010. It’s all about platforms.

2010: The Year of Platforms

I think 2010 is going to be the Year of Platforms. Not Snake-Oil-as-A-Service. Real honest-to-goodness heavy-lifting platforms. The stuff that makes it possible for everyone to have Everything-As-A-Service.

Some of you think that platforms are passe, so 2007. Some of you think that platforms are cloud-cuckoo-land, to be filed alongside the Paperless Office and the Paperless Loo. To my mind there’s something very William Gibson-ish about platforms: the future’s already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.

In 2010, we will see this distribution become more even. We use platforms every day, it’s just not that obvious to us. A credit card is a platform, as Richard Schmalensee and David Evans pointed out so vividly in Paying With Plastic. An airport is a platform. Facebook is a platform, as is Twitter. As is LinkedIn. If you’re using a smartphone to read this, then you’re probably using a platform: both iPhone as well as Android are platforms. If you’re at a desktop and using Firefox and WordPress, as I am, they’re platforms as well. Amazon.com is a platform, as is Force.com. Ribbit, the reason I spend a good deal of time in San Francisco, is a platform. Each with its own ecosystem. Each working with other platforms in a co-opetitive, almost fractal way.

So just what is a platform? A place. A device. A company. An everyday item. Bits of software. All of the above.

When I say “platform” I mean:

  • something that is a foundation, an enabling environment, upon which others can build things, make things
  • something that exists for a specific purpose (or set of purposes), and which invests in capabilities related to those purposes
  • something that then makes it easy for people to use those capabilities
  • something that does all this in a commercial model that facilitates the creation and development of new products, new services, new markets, new marketplaces
  • something that can coexist with other platforms and ecosystems

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