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Bill Bennett

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Platform is a fancy way of saying ‘thing’

Platform is a bad word to use in technology writing. That’s because the word in a vague hand-waving way to refer to a piece of hardware or software, or both or something that is neither.

Like ‘thing’ the word comes in useful when the writer wants to avoid precision. It is often ambiguous.

Platform is also used as padding to make the subject sound more important. For example, there are writers who think “the Windows platform” somehow trumps “the Windows operating system” or even plain old “Windows”.

Likewise “the Intel platform”, or any other variation.

Now these things can be platforms in the sense that they are technologies others can build on. But that nuance is often lost, glossed over or simply ignored.

Environment too

The same is true ‘environment‘. An environment sounds like a pond with frogs hopping around. A rain forest is an environment.

To describe an operating system as an environment is pompous, wordy and just poor communications. It is an operating system, that’s the right noun to describe it.

I can accept Windows being described as ‘software’, the word is accurate, if not precise. We can shorten operating system to OS when communicating with more tech-savvy readers.

There are people who think Apple’s tightly knit combination of software and hardware qualifies as a platform or an environment – though often people who use one term will use both to mean exactly the same thing. It isn’t the same thing, the two words have distinct meanings. They are no interchangeable.

In the real world software neatly integrated with hardware adds up to a first class computer.

If you want to talk about what goes on in the world of Apple computers, say so, be precise, be accurate, call it an Apple computer. That’s a perfectly respectable term. It is unambiguous.

Good writing is clear, concise and unambiguous. “Platform” and “environment” fail on all three counts.

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2 thoughts on “Platform is a fancy way of saying ‘thing’

  1. Very good, Bill:

    ‘Platform’ has often annoyed me, but it was one of those ‘tech’ words I felt I had to tolerate because I didn’t know what to substitute.

    Bit like a Spitfire being called “an aerial weapons-delivery system asset”.

    And you’re correct about ‘environment’.

    Cheers
    – Paul

  2. Hi Paul

    “‘Platform’ has often annoyed me, but it was one of those ‘tech’ words I felt I had to tolerate because I didn’t know what to substitute.”

    More likely the word was used because the author didn’t know precisely what he or she meant.

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