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Bill St. Arnaud is a consultant and research engineer who works with clients around the world on a variety of subjects such as next generation Internet networks and developing practical solutions to reduce CO2 emissions such as free broadband and dynamic charging of eVehicles. He is an author of many papers and articles on these topics and is a frequent guest speaker. For more details on my research interests see

Monday, June 11, 2007

More on Platform Architect as a Network-centric Strategy

[More comments From David Reed on platform architects -- BSA

Interesting. But it's mostly been said before, quite coherently - read
the book by Annabelle Gawer and Michael Cusumano entitled Platform
Leadership, from Harvard Business School Press.

As vp and chief scientist at Lotus, I was lucky to be involved directly
in most of the cases discussed in that book - Intel, for example, early
recognized that its value proposition was intimately entangled with a
network of other companies, many of whom were linked only indirectly to
Intel (e.g. Lotus, which had *zero* customer or supplier contracts with
Intel, and little need to talk to them). Thus taking a leadership role
in shaping that network's evolution was going to be crucial, and Intel
stepped into the role - very actively working with people with
responsibilities like mine in distant parts of the network to define the
evolution of the PC platform. (e.g. Intel led a variety of software
architecture standards efforts that increased the success of PC's their
OS's and their applications - often acting as Switzerland between
tensely competing companies that also had to cooperate - IBM and Compaq,
Lotus and MicrosoftApplications). This contrasted directly with Apple's
very constrained notion of a vertically integrated stack, and no network
to speak of (if you also did apps or hadrware for PCs, Apple basically
told you, e.g. us at Lotus, to go to hell, presuming that they could
dictate their platform's direction alone).

The failure to grasp that one's platform was embedded in a network of
relationships that had non-trivial network effects was a failing
strategy, over the long run. IMO, it explains a lot of what has
happened in the computing industry. It's not a full explanation, but
ignore it at your peril. That said, the more macho and self-centered
CEOs and management teams ignore it all the time. The more the CEO (or
POTUS, for that matter) is surrounded by glorifying sycophants, the more
likely the value of the network is discounted by that person.

This, by the way, is part of where the inspiration for Reed's Law came from.