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Definition: platform


A hardware and/or software architecture that serves as a foundation or base. The term originally dealt with hardware and often refers to only a computer family. For example, the x86 PC is the world's largest computer platform. In this case, the terms "platform" and "environment" are used interchangeably. See multiplatform, hardware platform and environment.

Windows Platform
An operating system often implies the CPU hardware. For example, an application "running on the Windows platform," means that the program has been compiled into x86 machine language and runs under Windows. It implies x86 because Windows has run on x86 machines for decades. However, at times, it also runs on ARM CPUs (see Windows 10 on ARM and Windows RT).

Mac and Mobile Platforms
The Mac operating system has run on four different CPUs since its inception in 1984. Therefore, the hardware implied by any Mac platform depends on the time period (see Mac hardware platforms). Mobile platforms run on ARM CPUs and the Android, iOS or iPadOS operating systems (see ARM, Android, iOS and iPadOS).

Platforms Have Interfaces and External Connections
An application can be called a platform if it is a host to other programs. For example, Web browsers accept third-party plug-ins, and the browser becomes a platform to interface with. Any software can be defined as a platform if it provides an interface (formats, codes and procedures) to interact with other software (see API).

Social media such as Facebook are "social media platforms." Officially an "integrated development environment" (IDE), program compilers such as Visual Studio and Eclipse are platforms (see integrated development environment, Visual Studio and Eclipse). See application framework and online platform.