What is the 3rd Platform and How Will It Affect Business?

By Mark Neistat US Signal Company

Simply stated, the 3rd Platform is the next phase of the IT revolution. The first platform was the mainframe computer. The second was Personal Computers (PC) which dominated the IT landscape from 1985 to 2005. The 3rd Platform is being built on mobile computing, social networking, cloud services, and Big Data analytics technologies.

Of the five components of the 3rd Platform mobile computing is the biggest plank. Social networks, cloud, and Big Data are all accessed through these devices and, more often than not, the type of mobility is chosen by the worker – this is labeled BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). BYOD is the business version of a grassroots movement. And, the data supports this trend.

More than half of all IT spending worldwide will be driven by the purchase of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and e-readers. It is predicted that 57% of overall IT spending in 2013 will be on these devices – that translates to $431 billion. Industry analysts also predict that 2015 will be the first year that more American consumers will access the Internet with mobile devices rather than PCs.

This explosion in mobile computing will rocket the growth of social networking, already exponential, to even more unprecedented levels, especially internationally. In the Middle East and Africa, it is anticipated that social network access will increase by 23.3%, followed by the Asia-Pacific region (including China, India, and Indonesia) at 21.1%, then Latin America at 12.6%. In comparison, the forecast for social media growth in North America is an anemic 4.1%.

If current trends hold, niche players, who offer deeper, more focused functionalities will grow dramatically worldwide. For example, Instagram (acquired by Facebook), saw its share of social media traffic grow by a mind-blowing 17,319% in 2012. And, China’s answer to Twitter (Sina Weibo) recently surpassed 400 million users – doubling its base in one year.

The growth of the social networking plank, while not as frenzied as mobile computing, will still have an extraordinary impact on IT, specifically as it relates to validating user credentials. Amazingly, IDC predicts that enterprises will incorporate the identify management systems of Facebook, Google, and other social networks as part of their authentication protocols. Tilting the protocols of an entire business platform to those of a consumer one is an example of Consumerization at its mightiest.

The juggernaut known as cloud computing will continue to charge ahead. Because of the vast number of technologies and functions becoming virtualized, spending on cloud is expected to surpass $207 billion worldwide. The growth will be especially concentrated in midsize companies, as two-thirds will use some form of cloud services in 2013 – this is up from just over half in 2012.

The cloud, combined with mobile computing will drive the “live-to-work” mentality that is pervasive in today’s business environment. People, for better or worse, are no longer confined to a 9-to-5 workday. And, they are not anchored to one physical location. While the psychological effects (good and bad) are yet to be fully seen one fact is certain: If it were not for the growth of this plank of the 3rd Platform, many companies would not be as productive and profitable as they are now.

Big Data is the wild card of the 3rd Platform. Big Data is a general term used to describe the voluminous amount of unstructured and semi-structured data which organizations create in the course of their day-to-day operational practices. While this definition of Big Data is straightforward, the concept of this 3rd Platform plank is revolutionary.

Essentially, IT professionals are crunching vast quantities of seemingly chaotic information and discovering patterns that can lead to insightful, life-saving, and profitable predictions. For example, Google used software programs to analyze searches for healthcare information. They honed in on flu-related searches. The results allowed Google to create a graph that predicted influenza activity across the United States.

Currently, the immense amount of information generated makes it difficult for an organization to comb through it, make sense of it, and turn it into actionable policy. In fact, 93% of North American executives believe their companies are losing revenue by not leveraging available data.

It takes large infrastructure capacity to examine this treasure trove and uncover hidden patterns, unknown correlations, and other useful information that can create a competitive edge. Cloud technologies offer the perfect platform to develop the applications that can turn seemingly chaotic virtual transactions and searches into profitable business intelligence.

Take the plunge and invest your time and effort to learn and exploit this next phase of IT development. It will increase your knowledge base and, potentially, grow your financial coffers.


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