Don’t Call It a Platform

Excel is not a platform. It is an application. There's a big difference.

Estimated reading: 2 min

platform450Today platforms are hot. You can’t watch five minutes of a business show such as Bloomberg West without someone dropping the term platform. 

I get it.

But calling it a platform does not make it so. The term has been so misused that it risks losing its meaning. To listen to some pundits and software vendors, today everything is a platform. By this rationale, Microsoft Excel is a platform because you can create different workbooks and insert some fancy code to automate manual processes.

Except Excel not a platform. It is an application. There’s a big difference. An application is not the same as a platform.

Or consider rock star Chris Brogan, who recently praised Google+ as a great storytelling platform. It’s not. Google is the platform—and Plus is one of its many planks. If Google+ is your only “platform”, then you’re in trouble. What if Google changes its terms? Retires it? How can anything be your “platform” when you have no control over it?

It can’t.

So, let’s get our terms straight.

Simon Says: Everything is not a platform.

A true platform allows third parties (partners and developers), the community, and individual end users to build applications, services, plug-ins, extensions on top of it. Think open APIsSDKs, and other tools that let others augment the native functionality of your product or service. As new features and planks are added, the platform becomes more powerful.

I’ll have much more to say about this in the coming months.


What say you?




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  1. Dayce

    Well, there goes my book title “Excel, The First Platform”. 😉

    • Phil Simon

      Good point, Dayce. I agree with you that a simple application is not the same thing as a platform.


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