The Third Platform


/ 2014-04-07

Every once in a while I brush aside all the stacks of paper on my desk and tell myself to spend a couple hours deep diving into some topic to see where it takes me. If browsers could heat up from over-use, there would be smoke coming out of my office for those two hours.

This time I focused on an IDC report that came out towards the end of 2013. I had seen this phrase a few times before, but for some reason it really caught my eye this time: The Third Platform.

I know what you’re thinking! You’re right. Another random marketing term is the last thing we need. But there were some interesting perspectives in their report and subsequent materials I’ve reviewed. The more I read the more I wanted to write about it.

IDC ( defined the Third Platform as “the industry’s emerging platform for growth and innovation built on the technology pillars of mobile computing, cloud services, big data and analytics, and social networking.” Whatever you would call those components, it is an exciting age. As recently as ten years ago, those four pillars were not even talked about much from an IT perspective.


Look at these words from Frank Gens, Senior VP and Chief Analyst at IDC. “In 2014, we’ll see every major player make big investments to scale up cloud, mobile, and big data capabilities, and fiercely battle for the hearts and minds of the developers who will create the solutions driving the next two decades of IT spending. Outside the IT industry, Third Platform technologies will play a leading role in the disruption of almost every other industry on the planet.”

Those are big words and I think he’s right. Here are just a few takeaways I observed from his presentation.

  • Worldwide IT spending will grow 5% year over year to $2.1 trillion in 2014. Spending on Third Platform technologies will grow 15% year over year and account for 89% of IT spending growth.
  • Within the Third Platform, value in “up the stack” services will grow. He specifically references Amazon Web Services and their enormous rollout of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings, especially data-optimized PaaS.
  • The mobile onslaught continues with 2014 sales of tablets growing by 18% and smartphones just a little behind that at 12%.
  • Cloud spending will surge by 25% in 2014 and includes both cloud services and technology. A fierce battle will be waged as developers work to create cloud-based applications.
  • Big Data technologies and services will grow by 30% in 2014 and reach $14 billion. Demand for Big Data analytics skills will continue to outpace supply. The big push will be on “data-optimized cloud platforms” for high volumes of data at lower cost.
  • Social technologies will become more and more integrated into today’s enterprise applications. Social media will be further embedded into enterprise workflow rather than having a separate “social layer.” This will create all kinds of partnerships, collaboration and coordination from traditional IT vendors.

In a way, mobile is really the biggest of the pillars. Social networks, the cloud and a lot of big data are all accessed through an ocean of mobile devices.

Big Data is the one that feels a little odd in the list, primarily because there isn’t an immediately perceived consumer component to it as opposed to cloud, mobile and social media. But the impacts of corporations being able to analyze these huge volumes of structured and semi-structured information will continue to roll down to the consumer. We are already seeing great examples of Big Data impacts in healthcare and other businesses. The consumer will benefit from many of these business data insights.

IDC also stated in their report, “In the next five years, users and vendors need to focus on the development trends of the Third Platform, with cloud computing transforming software models; big data driving the development of business analytics software and database; mobile applications creating better customer experience; and social features becoming increasingly integrated with enterprise applications.”

Based on these technology pillars, it’s clear that we are in an exciting age of innovation—it’s a fun time to be in the business.

Now, go get to work.

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