Aug 23, 2023

about 5 min read

Platforms vs. Apps: All You Need to Know

Learn the difference between platform vs. app and how to choose the right software solution for your needs.

 

Mobile technology has transformed the way people live their lives. With the rise of smartphones and tablets, we now have access to many applications and platforms that enable us to accomplish tasks and communicate with others at the touch of a button. 

 

However, there are significant differences between an application vs. a platform. In this article, we will explore the definitions, characteristics, and examples of platforms vs. apps. We will also discuss some of the key differences between them and whether an app can also be a platform.

 

What is an App Platform?

 

 

When it comes to technology, a platform serves as the foundation for building other applications. It includes essential elements such as operating systems, hardware, and APIs, which enable apps to function properly.

 

A platform can come as hardware, such as a computer system, or as software, such as an operating system on which other software programs run. A notable example is the Windows operating system, which serves as a platform for developers to create Windows-compatible applications.

 

Platforms provide developers with the building blocks to develop applications compatible with various external systems. Essentially, platforms serve as frameworks that enables various apps to operate on it. Smartphones are a prime example, as they possess hardware (form factor) and an operating system and can connect with other devices and operating systems.

 

A platform can also be a cloud service that provides various resources and capabilities for developers and users to create and run applications. For example, AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud are popular cloud platforms that offer a range of features, from computing and storage to networking and analytics. 

 

On the other hand, a platform can refer to a network that connects different entities and facilitates interactions, transactions, or collaborations. For instance, Facebook is a social network platform that connects users, advertisers, developers, and publishers. Similarly, Uber is a transportation network platform that connects drivers, riders, and partners.

 

Other examples of platforms include:

  • Programming languages (Java, Python, C++)
  • Development frameworks (Django, Rails, React Native)

What is an App?

 

 

In contrast, an app, or software application, is a standalone computer program that aims to complete a specific task or set of tasks separate from the platform. 

 

Applications run locally on a server or computer system. They use application programming interfaces (APIs) to talk to other apps. These apps serve various purposes. On one hand, there are complex database systems or deployment tools. On the other hand, there are simple programs like word processors or image editors that can be used across a range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and computers. 

 

Notable examples of apps include Google ChromeMicrosoft Word, and Spotify. All of them are compatible with Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android platforms.

 

Apps can be classified into two main categories:

  • Native apps. What does native mean in software? It means the apps are built specifically for a particular platform. For example, a native iOS app can only be run on iPhones and iPads.
  • Web apps. Web apps are built using web technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) and can be run on any device with a web browser.
  • Cross-platform apps. Cross-platform apps are built using a framework that allows them to be run on multiple platforms. For example, you can build cross-platform apps that run on Android, iOS, and Windows using React Native.

 

Apps can also be delivered as software-as-a-service (SaaS), which means they are hosted on the cloud and accessed remotely by users. Therefore, businesses do not have to invest in hardware. It also ensures that software updates can be installed seamlessly.

 

5 Key Differences Between Platforms vs. Apps

 

Here are some of the main differences between platforms vs. apps:

PlatformsApplications
A base for building and running applicationsA specific piece of software that is designed to perform a particular task
Support multiple applicationsRun only on one or several platforms
Enable interactions and transactions between different partiesFacilitate the communication only between itself and other applications
Generate value from network effects, which means the more users and contributors they has, the more valuable they becomeCan only generate value from their features and functionalities
Often owned and maintained by large technology companies, such as Apple, Google, and MicrosoftCan be developed by anyone and distributed through many ways

 

Can an Application Also Be a Platform?

 

Yes. Despite the difference between a platform vs. an app, an application can also be called a platform in the sense that it can perform meaningful work within an organization or industry. This is known as a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) model. For example, Salesforce is an application that provides customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. However, it is also a platform that allows developers to create custom apps using its tools and services. 

 

 

Similarly, an application like a relational database management system (RDBMS) can be utilized to store, manage, and query data. In addition, it can be used as a platform for creating other applications. As a result, developers could leverage an RDBMS app to store and manage customer data.

 

An application can also be called a platform if it provides a framework for other developers to build on top of. For instance, WordPress is an application that allows users to create websites and blogs. But it is also a platform that supports thousands of plugins and themes, enhancing its features and capabilities. And developers can use its APIs and tools to create custom websites without writing code from scratch.

 

Platforms vs. Apps: What Will They Be Like in the Future?

 

Several factors, such as technological innovation, market competition, user demand, and social and regulatory pressures, will likely shape the future of platforms and apps. Some of the trends that experts predict for the next decade include:

  • With the advent of 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT), digital connectivity is becoming faster and more widespread. This will allow for more personalized and data-driven services in areas like healthcare, mobility, manufacturing, and retail.
  • By adopting a more distributed and decentralized infrastructure, platforms can operate closer to users and devices at the network’s edge. This approach enables the utilization of advanced technologies such as blockchain, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence to improve security, efficiency, and scalability.
  • The future of computing lies in the integration of quantum computing, neuromorphic computing, and nanotechnology. This convergence promises to unlock new realms of problem-solving, revolutionize experiences, and propel scientific discovery to unprecedented heights.
  • The growing dominance of a few large platforms in various markets and the emergence of new challengers from diverse regions and sectors will foster platform competition and consolidation.
  • Implementing more rigorous regulation and governance may be necessary to address the social and ethical concerns surrounding platforms, including privacy, security, fairness, accountability, and sustainability. To achieve this, companies must carefully consider and balance the interests and expectations of their diverse stakeholders, including users, developers, partners, providers, and regulators.
  • To achieve more significant innovation and diversification, we will need to develop new, specialized platforms and expand current ones with fresh features and capabilities is essential. Additionally, it is crucial to keep up with evolving user preferences and behaviors, including the desire for more engaging and interactive experiences.

Conclusion

 

Platforms and applications are two different types of software products that have different purposes and characteristics. Understanding their differences can help you choose the right solution for your business or personal needs.

 

Therefore, we hope this article has helped you understand the difference between platforms vs. apps. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them below. Thank you for reading!

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