On Platforms and Periphery

Technology works like an ecosystem. There emerges a core around which others revolve or depend on for its existence. That core is a platform like operating systems or web browsers or hardware processors and the like.

Mac OS X, BlackBerry (and soon to be QNX), Linux and Windows are all platforms (as well as its mobile counterparts like iOS, Android, MeeGo, webOS and Windows Mobile). And so is Safari, Firefox, Chrome and IE. On hardware, x86, ARM and AMD rules the landscape. Not to mention social platforms like FaceBook, blogging platform like WordPress, web platforms like Ruby on Rails, PHP, etc. And last but not the least, the Java platform.

The company that creates the platform dictates the latter’s direction barring negligible market forces.

Periphery like Xmarks which depend on the browser platform plays the sustainability game. Dependency is one of the attributes of a periphery. If you can’t find a viable business model, it’s game over. In economics, technology loosely follows the core-periphery model. Of course, there are lots of factors that are at play if you are going to survive or not. Whatever is the outcome, we commend the fighting spirit behind all entrepreneurship. Without the periphery, the platform might just go stagnant, without much needed innovation.

On the other hand, periphery like Mono depends on .NET platform for compatibility. When .NET evolves its API, Mono has to adapt the changes.

In telecoms, regional operators have to make do with interconnection with national operators.

Platform (Periphery)

1. Windows, .NET (Mono) – compatibility

2. Python (IronPython, Jython) – compatibility

4. Chrome, Firefox, IE (Xmarks) – dependency

5. ARM processor (Qualcomm, Marvell, etc) – licensing

6. Facebook (Zynga) – dependency

7. Java Virtual Machine (Jython, JRuby) – porting

8. National telecoms operator (regional telecoms operator) – interconnection

9. Tier-1 ISP (local ISP) – interconnection

10. GCC, LLVM (various front-ends)

etc, etc, etc…

In short, while a platform is continually evolving, the periphery adapts to reflect the platform evolution. If you sense something like a network, it actually is. You may want to read the book Linked: The New Science of Networks for more info.

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