The small-grid OSS platform

Perhaps the most egregious platform failure is to simply not see the platform play at all. It is also one of the hardest for traditional firms to avoid. Firms guilty of this oversight never get past the idea that they sell products when they could be building ecosystems. Sony, Hewlett Packard (HP), and Garmin all made the mistake of emphasizing products over platforms. Before the iPhone launched in 2007, HP dominated the handheld calculator space for science and finance. Yet today, consumers can purchase near perfect calculator apps on iTunes or on Google Play and at a fraction of the cost of a physical calculator. Apple and Google did not create these emulators; they merely enabled them by providing the platform that connects app producers and consumers who need calculators.
Sony has sold some of the best electronic products ever made: It once dominated the personal portable music space with the Walkman. It had the world’s first and best compact disc players. By 2011, its PlayStation had become the best-selling game console of all time. Yet, for all its technological prowess Sony focused too much on products and not enough on creating platforms. (What became of Sony’s players? A platform – iOS – ate them for lunch.) Garmin, as a tailored mapping device, suffered a similar fate. As of 2012, Garmin had sold 100 million units after 23 years in the market. By contrast, iPhone sold 700 million units after just eight years in the market. More people get directions from an iPhone than from a Garmin, not only because of Apple maps but also because of Google Maps and Waze. As platforms, iOS and Android have ecosystems of producers, consumers, and others that have helped them triumph over such products as the Cisco Flip camera, the Sony PSP, the Flickr photo service, the Olympus voice recorder, the Microsoft Zune, the Magnus flashlight, and the Fitbit fitness tracker.
When a platform enters the market, product managers who focus on features are not just measuring the wrong things, they’re thinking the wrong thoughts
Co-authored with Marshall Van Alstyne and Geoffrey Parker here.

Recent posts have discussed the small-grid OSS concept. In effect, it’s an OSS platform that brings OSS developers and OSS users together into a single platform / marketplace / ecosystem.

As the link above shows (it’s a really interesting read in full BTW), there are many potential pitfalls in taking the platform approach. However, perhaps the most egregious platform failure is to simply not see the platform play at all.

The OSS industry has barely tapped into the platform play yet but like other industries, like Uber to taxis, OSS is primed for a platform disruption.

So far we have some service / NFV catalogues, mediation device and developer forums, as well as ecosystems like Esri, Salesforce, etc but I can’t think of any across the broader scope of OSS. Are you aware of any?

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