Introduction – Smashing Timeworn Paradigms
We are now entering the age of the third platform.
Famed 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote that when our intellect “smashes, jumbles, and ironically reassembles [the conceptual] framework, pairing what is most foreign and separating what is closest, it reveals that it has no use for such makeshifts of need and that it will no longer be guided by concepts.”
We must be careful not to follow that format when transitioning to the so-called “third platform” of computing (defined and described below). Let’s not crush anything, and let’s certainly not construct our new environments ironically.
Although Nietzsche’s comments may not be relevant to conscientious computing transitions, they came to my mind on the topic of the third platform because of the extent to which it is effecting disruption throughout the business world.
Third Platform – Trending #hereitcomes
In a report published December 2013 (explored in this blog previously), research firm IDC forecast that 2014 would be a year in which the third platform (or the “3rd Platform,” as IDC and computing professional association Technology First call it) – which encompasses the use of mobile devices, cloud technology, predictive modeling and analytics, and social media – continues to expand, maturing as it starts to take a more defined shape.
What this looks like on the ground is that companies are investing hugely in bolstering their systems that are part of the quickly developing platform, particularly big data projects, mobile applications, and migration of operations to the cloud. Additionally, competition is heating up over the best developers of third platform technologies: Companies realize that the systems created now could be responsible for “driving the next two decades of IT spending,” per IDC. Furthermore, the third platform is so astronomically powerful that its immediate availability to organizations will create disruption in just about every major business market worldwide.
Third Platform – Definition & Description
Technology First (mentioned above) discussed the concept of the third platform in May 2013. They described it within the context of computing history:
- Mark Neistat of cloud provider US Signal Company, writing for Technology First, notes that the 3rd Platform is “the next phase of the IT revolution.” That seems essentially correct but just a bit off. It should be called the current phase, since it is rapidly emerging and can no longer be thought of as up-and-coming technology. Regardless, Neistat notes that up until the early 1980s, the first platform was king: the mainframe computer. The second platform was PCs (personal computers), which represented the primary means of client computing between the mid-80s and 2005. Reiterating what was stated above, the third platform involves four core technologies: social media; the use of mobile devices; cloud hosting (i.e. distributed virtualization); and predictive modeling and analytics.
- Neistat argues that mobile access is the central element of the new platform. All of the other three pieces (including cloud) represent environments that can be managed through cell phones and tablets. Plus, the way in which mobility is defined gives employees a great deal of freedom, allowing them to choose a device that best meets their needs through increasingly common BYOD (bring your own device) policies.
- Three out of every five dollars (57%) invested in computing by consumers and businesses globally in 2013 was projected to be spent on cell phones, tablets, and e-readers (such as the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook). That would mean a total market value of $431 billion. Business research firms forecast that by next year, adults in the US will more typically use the third platform (phone/tablets) than the second (PCs) to reach the Web.
- Neistat argues that companies offering more specific, niche solutions are more likely to grow within the social media field moving forward. Instagram, which was eventually purchased by Facebook, experienced exponential growth in 2012, for instance: 17,319%. The impact of burgeoning social media is powerful particularly in the area of user authentication. IDC forecast in 2013 that enterprises will gradually integrate the credential checks of Google and other systems into their own authentication processes.
- Cloud expansion, similarly, proceeds at breakneck speed. It was expected to hit $207 billion globally last year. Mobile devices and distributed virtualization will make it easier (and not everyone is happy about this) for employees to perform tasks outside of the normal business day. If that sounds disheartening, the positive side is that work no longer has to be conducted in a set place. That makes it easier to initiate telecommuting policies and better embrace open office design principles. Plus, businesses benefit from having their workers “on call” from anywhere.
- I listed predictive modeling and analytics above, but really what we are talking about is big data. Neistat describes big data as “the voluminous amount of unstructured and semi-structured data which organizations create in the course of their day-to-day operational practices.” It can be crunched in all sorts of ways, whether to understand the currently available information or for prediction purposes.
Essentially, the move to the third platform is disruptive, sure. However, disruption is positive – at least for business development and generally for startups. In other words, it’s not about smashing.
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By Kent Roberts
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