A software platform is a framework of software that is intended and designed to work together. Software platforms are curated to allow applications to work together seamlessly, without workarounds or integrations. Although the term platform can be used to refer to any technology system that runs services or applications, we’re talking about software platforms specifically.
A software platform may support a variety of programming languages, engines, and web services.
An operating system on a computer or smart phone, as mentioned earlier, is a type of software platform. It sits between the hardware (physical parts) of the computer and all of the other applications on the computer, such as web browsers and desktop applications.
An operating system manages the running of its native applications (like Safari and Messages on macOS) but also runs other applications, like Google Chrome and Spotify. I The underlying software platform (macOS) provides the environment that allows not only native applications to run, but also those developed by third parties.
Software platforms are intended to scale depending on business needs and to run multiple programs. Businesses that are buying a software platform may also want to customize the platform, which requires some development on top of its existing framework.
To explain more clearly, a software platform isn’t a piece of software that just happens to integrate with another software—for example, project management software monday.com integrating with Zoom. Software integrations, though helpful, are limited. A software platform works more like macOS, Apple’s operating system: Zoom is downloaded straight to the desktop and runs all of its own software on top of the existing operating system, which is the software platform.
Software platforms are also not suites—for exampleMicrosoft Office, a popular office productivity suite. It comes from one vendor, it has a specified set of modules, and each of those modules serve a purpose. They can integrate with other software, but they don’t allow applications to be built on top of them. Other examples of suites include Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Workspace (G Suite), and HubSpotEnterprise Growth Suite.
Platforms are not simply products: they are entire technology frameworks that must be able to expand and adjust to meet market demand. A good software platform is designed with flexibility in mind.
Again, there’s some debate, or lack of clarity, about what a software platform is. If you’re researching software platforms, you may find applications like G Suite or Zoom listed. These are software, but they aren’t a software platform in its strictest, most technical sense.