Design Rules, Volume 2: How Technology Shapes Organizations: Chapter 14 Introducing Open Platforms and Business Ecosystems

by Carliss Y. Baldwin
 
 

Overview — Platform systems have existed in various forms for centuries. Beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, newly competitive technology of open platform systems based on digital technology and modular architectures changed the structure of entire industries. This paper lays the groundwork for a comprehensive theoretical investigation of open platform systems.

Author Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to lay the groundwork for a comprehensive theoretical investigation of open platform systems. To do this, we must first recognize that, although there is a strong family resemblance among all platform systems, there are different types of open platforms, each with its own set of technological requirements and challenges. I first develop a taxonomy of open platform types and then provide a brief history of digitally enabled open platforms. I go on to argue that the competitive success of open platforms against closed platforms gave rise to the "vertical-to-horizontal" transition in the computer industry in the 1980s and 1990s. This transition was one of the organizational "surprises" highlighted in Chapter 1. In this case, newly competitive technology of open platforms not only shaped individual organizations but changed the structure of the entire industry.

Paper Information

  • Full Working Paper Text
  • Working Paper Publication Date: October 2018
  • HBS Working Paper Number: HBS Working Paper #19-035
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