Science & Technology in Action

10th Edition

The 3rd Platform


The term ‘3rd platform’ refers to the revolution in information and communications technology brought about by modern mobile telecommunications in conjunction with online applications and ‘cloud’ based storage.
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Lesson excerpt

When computer people use the term ‘platform’ they are referring to the system of hardware and/or software on which the user’s application can run. In addition the term is often used to describe the phases through which the IT industry has evolved. Looking back on the fairly short history of computing it is possible to identify changes in the way services have been offered to users. In other words, we can identify a move from one platform structure to another. Up to now, this has happened twice and, consequently, we are now well on the way into the era of the 3rd Platform. 

What is the 3rd Platform? 
The first computer services were delivered from large centralised computers called mainframes. Users had a terminal connected to the mainframe. These users were specialists working in large organisations or universities. Most office workers and members of the general public did not have access to a terminal. This phase is now called the 1st Platform. 

The advent of the personal computer (PC), around the mid 1980s, was a dramatic change. This gave rise to the client-server approach in which organisations can keep files on computers called servers and people can access them from PCs called clients. This is called the 2nd Platform and is still very common at the present time. 

However, in the last few years there have been several technological developments that are changing the way that IT services are being delivered and used. These are: 

  • The delivery of services from the cloud 
  • The explosion in the number of mobile devices 
  • The similar growth in the use of social networks 
  • The huge increase in the quantity of data to be managed ― in other words the advent of big data. 

It is the influence of these factors that is giving rise to what is now being called the 3rd Platform. 

The Cloud 
If you have a PC, laptop or tablet there are probably some applications such as a word processor installed in it. Millions of other users have the same programmes on their PCs. However, users can now access the same programmes from the internet and the documents they create can also be stored on the internet. This arrangement is called cloud computing. These services are known as Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). 

True or False?

  1. Internet access is increasing seen as another utility — like water, gas or electricity. false
  2. The 1st Platform had more users than any other Platform. false
  3. The 2nd Platform is characterised by the client-server model. true
  4. The main frame computer is the main component of the 3rd Platform. false
  5. ‘Data scientist’ is another name for computer programmer. false
  6. Useful business information cannot be derived from the analysis of social network traffic. false
  7. Data is not the same as information. true
  8. Delivery of services from the internet is called cloud computing. true
  9. Boolean algebra is used in designing electronic circuits. true