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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Rhapsody was the code name given to Apple Computer's next-generation operating system during the period of its development between Apple's purchase of NeXT in late 1996 and the announcement of Mac OS X in 1998. At first more than an operating system, Rhapsody represented a new strategy for Apple, who intended the operating system to run on x86-based PCs and DEC Alpha workstations as well as on PowerPC-based Macintosh hardware. In addition, the underlying API frameworks would be ported to run natively on Microsoft Windows NT. Eventually, the non-Apple platforms were dropped, and later versions consisted primarily of the OPENSTEP operating system ported to the Power Macintosh, along with a new GUI to make it appear more Mac-like. Several existing "classic" Mac OS technologies were also ported to Rhapsody, including QuickTime and AppleSearch. Rhapsody could also run Mac OS 8 in a "Blue Box" emulation layer.

The following is a timeline of virtualization development.

Memory footprint refers to the amount of main memory that a program uses or references while running.

Binary-code compatibility is a property of computer systems meaning that they can run the same executable code, typically machine code for a general-purpose computer CPU. Source-code compatibility, on the other hand, means that recompilation or interpretation is necessary before the program can be run.

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.

Macintosh operating systems Family of operating systems for Macintosh computers

The family of Macintosh operating systems developed by Apple Inc. includes the graphical user interface-based operating systems it has designed for use with its Macintosh series of personal computers since 1984, as well as the related system software it once created for compatible third-party systems.

The Java Development Kit (JDK) is an implementation of either one of the Java Platform, Standard Edition, Java Platform, Enterprise Edition, or Java Platform, Micro Edition platforms released by Oracle Corporation in the form of a binary product aimed at Java developers on Solaris, Linux, macOS or Windows. The JDK includes a private JVM and a few other resources to finish the development of a Java application. Since the introduction of the Java platform, it has been by far the most widely used Software Development Kit (SDK). On 17 November 2006, Sun announced that they would release it under the GNU General Public License (GPL), thus making it free software. This happened in large part on 8 May 2007, when Sun contributed the source code to the OpenJDK.


  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.