Greg Gianforte, CEO of Rightnow Technologies writes, Platforms usually aren't platforms anyway. He sees these as "marketectures" that exist purely to rationalize bad acquisitions and adds that . one reason that vendors do the platform dance is that it generates hype and to create fear, uncertainity & doubt that are always useful when you lack a solid value proposition. With platforms, you make the third-party developers and integrators responsible for actually doing something with that platform with potential to collect a lot of cash and still have absolutely zero accountability for what happens to your customers afterwards. The reach for established platforms can be very high - Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said they have 80,000 developers signed up for Amazon Web Services, plus "over 800,000 sellers on the Amazon platform and 47 million customers"
Greg sees alternative to platform madness in two forms : On demand delivery model and open source. He sees On demand eliminating the need to create a proprietary technology platform as a competitive differentiator. The IT stack only exists to support applications. By taking the entire IT stack (OS, DB, app server, web server, etc.) off the customer's hands, the on demand model renders identity of the stack's individual components meaningless. The applications themselves must be capable of being integrated, customized and scaled as required - but the underlying "platform" should not be the customer's headache . Open source commoditizes the stack. MySQL replaces Oracle. Linux replaces Windows. TomCat and JBOSS replace Webshpere and NetWeaver. ( My Note : None of this has ever happened with any one of my vast contacts across continents – Even Linux has replaced Unix/Solaris but not Windows in few cases) Vendors that are still trying to differentiate themselves in these commodity businesses are clearly headed in the wrong direction. Yet that is exactly what platform vendors continue to do.
Greg is right that software vendors should listen to their customers, deliver results, and charge a fair price for their products. Anything else is just a smokescreen for failure. I do not agree with Greg’s view on On-demand & Open source. Gartner recently released a report,On-Demand Services Won't Dominatethe Future of Business Applications and noted that despite market hype, these services are likely to account for less than 10 percent of business application use through 2010. My views on SaaS are available here and here & on open source here, here, here, here. I have enormous respect for Greg's views - he articluates things very well coming out of deep thought - I agree with Greg on his strong views of clever marketing parading as platforms, but his prescriptions as alternatives clearly fall short -far short at that and I do not see them rising i the near future to reach respectable heights.