December 18, 2014

The Age of the Platform Will Make You Think

Phil Simon’s newest book, The Age of the Platform, is the kind of book to read if you want to better understand the Internet and how your company can fit into it and create a business model to profit from it.

The Age of the Platform by Phil SimonThe subtitle “How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Have Redefined Business” gives further clues of what this book is about.  Simon refers to these four companies as the “Gang of Four.”  It’s a term first used by Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, to describe four tech companies that are growing at “unprecedented rates.”

What is a Platform?

The premise of the book is that these four companies have created not just companies, not just technology.  They’ve created platforms — and platforms are something that YOU can leverage with a small business.  Or you can create your own smaller platform.

What’s a platform?  It’s a valuable and powerful technology ecosystem.  It scales and grows quickly.  It serves customers, yes.  But it also serves vendors and partners, who use it for their own business purposes.  A platform embraces third-party collaboration.  The platform, he says, is “becoming one of the most important business models of the new millennium” and “new companies are hitching their wagons on the platform.”

Platforms have benefits and they have their downsides.  Benefits for you include a place to sell and distribute your content (Amazon or Apple’s iTunes) or promote your business (Google or Facebook). To understand the benefits of a platform, you have to understand consumer behavior.  Simon says that consumers “want one-stop shopping, even at the expense of missing out on ‘the best’ app or service.  They like platforms; they don’t want to manage 100 different devices, sites, and services.”

Of course, the downsides include the fact that a platform may end up becoming your competitor.  Or it may just go out of fashion (think MySpace), leaving you to have to re-establish a foothold on  another platform.  Therefore, you must be fluid and nimble, and able to change as circumstances change.

About The Author

Phil SimonThe author (@PhilSimon on Twitter) is a technology expert and former tech consultant. We had Simon on my radio show to discuss this concept of platform (go here listen to the 30-minute audio interview if you’d like to hear more in the author’s own voice).  I was intrigued and he offered to send me a review copy so I could share more with you.

A Lot to Like About This Book

If you love to read about Google and Amazon — or are amazed at the growth of Facebook or how Apple can keep churning out new products that continue to delight — then you will love this book for that reason alone.  These are history-making companies.  We are seeing in real time how they change consumers’ lives.  And, as the book points out, we are seeing how they are changing the Internet since roughly 2005.

I know I can hardly resist reading a good article about these companies and how they are changing the Web.  I’m fascinated.  But reading an article here and there gives you a fragmented view.  Reading a book gives you a broader view of the landscape, and puts more in context.  You capture more of the nuances.  You get a better understanding when you read a book.

Another thing to like about this book is the way it gets you thinking about how to use the platforms of the Gang of Four (and other smaller platforms) to benefit your own business.  It’s a book that raises more questions to think about, than perhaps it answers.  That’s actually a good thing.  After all, to build our businesses using the Internet we have to first open our minds and understand enough to know the possibilities.

Who Should Read This Book

This is a book for anyone with a business that is using the Internet to generate revenues — or wants to. If you produce content and want to promote or sell it online, read this book.  If you create apps and need to get those apps to the populace, read this book.  If you have developed technology or a product and need to market it, read this book.

If you are struggling with your online business model, or finding that your business model has to evolve due to circumstances outside your control, read this book.

It is NOT a how-to book in the true sense of the term.  You will not be presented with chapter after chapter of detailed steps to take to create your own platform or learn to use the platforms of other companies. Yes, there is a chapter of about 30 pages called “The How: Tips for Building a Platform.”  But you will have to do the thinking and heavy lifting to build your platform and learn to leverage others.

Still, not every book needs to be a how-to.  It’s an important book in the sense of understanding the big picture and how your business can fit in.  We liked it so much that our Book Editors added it to our list of Top Technology Books.  If you want to learn more you can read the foreword and listen to the Introduction in audio, on the book’s website.

I recommend you read The Age of The Platform to start sparking ideas for where to take your business in the future.

5 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

5 Reactions

  1. Anita: I will listen to your interview Phil Simon again. It is very fascinating how “the gang of four” have transformed the IT industry and how we could conduct business in new ways. We could both become a customer and seller on these platforms.

    I have joined an “opportunity community” that is called SiteTalk. They have a goal to become one of the five biggest social networks in the future. SiteTalk has integrated the platform idea in a way that you both could be a regular user of a social network and build a business at the same time, earning credits (virtual currency) for being an active user and receive referral bonus (similar to affiliate commission) based on business being made through the different channels within the platform.

    As an example, it is mind boggling how Facebook has grown to a giant player in less than 10 years. I think it is hard for us to imagine how we could be without Facebook at this moment, because it is playing a big role in our lives. What will new market players learn from Facebook and the other platform companies?

  2. Thanks for the comment, Martin.

    To answer your question, there’s so much to learn from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. That’s why I wrote the book. I hope to have started what I think is a very important conversation.

  3. Phil: Yes, you have started a very important conversation and I got several a-ha moments during the podcast interview with you. I will order your book in the near future. Right now I am reading “18 minutes” by Peter Bregman. I also got Gary Vaynerchuck’s The Thank You Economy and Jonathan Fields’s Uncertainty.

    I definitively think that new IT companies and social media startups will think about the possibilities with creating two way street communication and exchange of trade (buyers and sellers) for both parties. I also think that we will see more utilization of the “six degrees (pixels) of separation” with a fuller context with the user created content.

  4. Thanks for this review, Anita.

    Amazon keeps coming up in magazine articles, blog posts, and the general buzz about Jeff Bezos and Amazon is starting to sound a lot like the buzz around Apple’s iTunes when it first came out; it’s the platform!

    This sounds like a great book, and one that all small business owners need to grab.

    It’s the future.

    The Franchise King®

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