In a similar application of the word, a platform is the means by which an application or program will stand or in more appropriate terms, ‘run’. Platforms are the infrastructure (hardware and/or software) that other technologies and applications can be built upon. To clarify further, an operating system is an example of software as a platform, while a mobile phone (in physical terms and form) can be referred to as a platform, solely in terms of hardware – both can be called as such if they allow application developers to develop applications that either will “support” or give functionality to. It goes down the line in a diverse and not always monogamous hierarchy: One such example is Polycom’s telecommunications solution, RealPresence, which is available for the Android and iPhone. While both phones would be considered a platform for the software, the software itself is a platform for the actual hardware (camera) used to video conference.
A platform in less glorious terms is anything on which a certain technology or multiple technologies may “live” or function. Examining the context of whatever technology you are dealing with is the best way to discern which might be a platform in a certain relationship:
- Apple’s iDevices are a platform for their iOS operating system > the hardware together creates a platform which applications may be run on.
- Java is a programming language – a set of libraries creating a system or platform for running programs, which will inevitably rely on a platform such as a tablet to be utilized.
Historically, most application programs were designed to run on one particular operating system or platform. For example, a program created for PC would need to have two different codings to run on Windows and Mac OSX. Although these platform differences continue to exist and there will probably always be proprietary differences between them, new open or standards-conforming interfaces now allow many programs/applications to run on different platforms or to inter-operate with different platforms through mediating or “broker” programs. This is essential as technology becomes intricately diverse and the need for unified communications and collaboration increases. Using an Android phone to teleconference with someone who might be using a Polycom’s EagleEye Camera hooked up to a monitor is a prime example of “cross-platform” VoIP communication.