Computing platform

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A computing platform or digital platform [1] is the environment in which a piece of software is executed. It may be the hardware or the operating system (OS), even a web browser and associated application programming interfaces, or other underlying software, as long as the program code is executed with it. Computing platforms have different abstraction levels, including a computer architecture, an OS, or runtime libraries. [2] A computing platform is the stage on which computer programs can run.


A platform can be seen both as a constraint on the software development process, in that different platforms provide different functionality and restrictions; and as an assistant to the development process, in that they provide low-level functionality ready-made. For example, an OS may be a platform that abstracts the underlying differences in hardware and provides a generic command for saving files or accessing the network.


Platforms may also include:

Some architectures have multiple layers, with each layer acting as a platform to the one above it. In general, a component only has to be adapted to the layer immediately beneath it. For instance, a Java program has to be written to use the Java virtual machine (JVM) and associated libraries as a platform but does not have to be adapted to run for the Windows, Linux or Macintosh OS platforms. However, the JVM, the layer beneath the application, does have to be built separately for each OS. [8]

Operating system examples

Desktop, laptop, server


Android, a popular mobile operating system Android Nougat screenshot 20170116-070000.png
Android, a popular mobile operating system

Software frameworks

Hardware examples

Ordered roughly, from more common types to less common types:

See also

Related Research Articles

AIX is a series of proprietary Unix operating systems developed and sold by IBM for several of its computer platforms. Originally released for the IBM RT PC RISC workstation, AIX now supports or has supported a wide variety of hardware platforms, including the IBM RS/6000 series and later POWER and PowerPC-based systems, IBM System i, System/370 mainframes, PS/2 personal computers, and the Apple Network Server.

Executable and Linkable Format Standard file format for executables, object code, shared libraries, and core dumps

In computing, the Executable and Linkable Format, is a common standard file format for executable files, object code, shared libraries, and core dumps. First published in the specification for the application binary interface (ABI) of the Unix operating system version named System V Release 4 (SVR4), and later in the Tool Interface Standard, it was quickly accepted among different vendors of Unix systems. In 1999, it was chosen as the standard binary file format for Unix and Unix-like systems on x86 processors by the 86open project.

Operating system Software that manages computer hardware resources

An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, software resources, and provides common services for computer programs.

In computing, a virtual machine (VM) is an emulation of a computer system. Virtual machines are based on computer architectures and provide functionality of a physical computer. Their implementations may involve specialized hardware, software, or a combination.

Computer operating systems (OSes) provide a set of functions needed and used by most application programs on a computer, and the links needed to control and synchronize computer hardware. On the first computers, with no operating system, every program needed the full hardware specification to run correctly and perform standard tasks, and its own drivers for peripheral devices like printers and punched paper card readers. The growing complexity of hardware and application programs eventually made operating systems a necessity for everyday use.

In computing, cross-platform software is computer software that is implemented on multiple computing platforms. Cross-platform software may be divided into two types; one requires individual building or compilation for each platform that it supports, and the other one can be directly run on any platform without special preparation, e.g., software written in an interpreted language or pre-compiled portable bytecode for which the interpreters or run-time packages are common or standard components of all platforms.

Originally, the word computing was synonymous with counting and calculating, and the science and technology of mathematical calculations. Today, "computing" means using computers and other computing machines. It includes their operation and usage, the electrical processes carried out within the computing hardware itself, and the theoretical concepts governing them.

In computer architecture, 64-bit integers, memory addresses, or other data units are those that are 64 bits wide. Also, 64-bit CPU and ALU architectures are those that are based on registers, address buses, or data buses of that size. 64-bit microcomputers are computers in which 64-bit microprocessors are the norm. From the software perspective, 64-bit computing means the use of code with 64-bit virtual memory addresses. However, not all 64-bit instruction sets support full 64-bit virtual memory addresses; x86-64 and ARMv8, for example, support only 48 bits of virtual address, with the remaining 16 bits of the virtual address required to be all 0's or all 1's, and several 64-bit instruction sets support fewer than 64 bits of physical memory address.

This article presents a timeline of events in the history of computer operating systems from 1951 to the current day. For a narrative explaining the overall developments, see the History of operating systems.

A cross compiler is a compiler capable of creating executable code for a platform other than the one on which the compiler is running. For example, a compiler that runs on a Windows 7 PC but generates code that runs on Android smartphone is a cross compiler.

Inferno (operating system)

Inferno is a distributed operating system started at Bell Labs and now developed and maintained by Vita Nuova Holdings as free software. Inferno was based on the experience gained with Plan 9 from Bell Labs, and the further research of Bell Labs into operating systems, languages, on-the-fly compilers, graphics, security, networking and portability. The name of the operating system and many of its associated programs, as well as that of the current company, were inspired by Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. In Italian, Inferno means "hell" — of which there are nine circles in Dante's Divine Comedy.

In software engineering, a compatibility layer is an interface that allows binaries for a legacy or foreign system to run on a host system. This translates system calls for the foreign system into native system calls for the host system. With some libraries for the foreign system, this will often be sufficient to run foreign binaries on the host system. A hardware compatibility layer consists of tools that allow hardware emulation.

Unified Extensible Firmware Interface Specification that defines a software interface between an operating system and platform firmware

The Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) is a specification that defines a software interface between an operating system and platform firmware. UEFI replaces the legacy Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) firmware interface originally present in all IBM PC-compatible personal computers, with most UEFI firmware implementations providing support for legacy BIOS services. UEFI can support remote diagnostics and repair of computers, even with no operating system installed.

A hypervisor is computer software, firmware or hardware that creates and runs virtual machines. A computer on which a hypervisor runs one or more virtual machines is called a host machine, and each virtual machine is called a guest machine. The hypervisor presents the guest operating systems with a virtual operating platform and manages the execution of the guest operating systems. Multiple instances of a variety of operating systems may share the virtualized hardware resources: for example, Linux, Windows, and macOS instances can all run on a single physical x86 machine. This contrasts with operating-system-level virtualization, where all instances must share a single kernel, though the guest operating systems can differ in user space, such as different Linux distributions with the same kernel.

QuickTransit is a cross-platform virtualization program developed by Transitive Corporation. It allows software compiled for one specific processor and operating system combination to be executed on a different processor and/or operating system architecture without source code or binary changes.

The following is a timeline of virtualization development. In computing, virtualization is the use of a computer to simulate another computer. Through virtualization, a host simulates a guest by exposing virtual hardware devices, which may be done through software or by allowing access to a physical device connected to the machine.

Parallels Server for Mac

Parallels Server for Mac is a server-side desktop virtualization product built for the Mac OS X Server platform and is developed by Parallels, Inc., a developer of desktop virtualization and virtual private server software. This software allows users to run multiple distributions of Linux, Windows and FreeBSD server applications alongside Mac OS X Server on Intel-based Apple hardware.


  1. "What I Talk About When I Talk About Platforms". Retrieved 2018-03-18.
  2. "platform". Free On-line Dictionary of Computing
  3. Andrew Binstock (July 2, 2012). "Google's Redefinition of the Browser As Platform". Dr. Dobbs .
  4. Chip Wilson; Alan Josephson. "Microsoft Office as a Platform for Software + Services". Microsoft Developer Network .
  5. "What Is PAAS?". Interoute .
  6. "Twitter Development Platform - Twitter Developers".
  7. "Facebook Development Platform Launches..." August 15, 2006.
  8. "Platform independence in Java's Byte Code". Stack Overflow.