The invisible engine model followed by Apple's iPhone has helped power the information technology industry for about three decades. Apple itself was one of the pioneers in encouraging developers to write applications for its desktop operating system. It invented the "software evangelist." Microsoft, though, was the maestro catalyst. Its Windows software platform attracted thousands of software developers and hundreds of millions of users. As a result it has been the durable center of a vast desktop-computer based ecosystem since at least the launch of Windows 3.0 in 1990. Invisible Engines tells the story of how software platforms have transformed industries including computers, video games, and handheld devices and then accelerated innovation. It then examines the forces behind the various business models that have been adopted in these industries. Many software platforms have decided not to charge developers while others have. Some have decided to vertically integrate into hardware while others have remained pure platforms.
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The use of software platforms to drive innovation and transform industries has exploded since the 2006 publication of my book Invisible Engines with MIT Professor and former Sloan School Dean Richard Schmalensee and Harvard Business School Professor Andrei Hagiu. Around the globe, invisible engines are ushering in a new era of technological change based on software. The Apple iPhone has shaken the mobile phone industry worldwide in part by creating a massive applications business built on the phone's operating system. Firefox has revolutionized the browser industry by encouraging developers to write add-ons and in doing so toppled Microsoft's Internet Explorer from dominance in many countries. Facebook has created a powerful social networking platform by opening itself up to developers. Amazon has started cloud-computing platform that enables entrepreneurs to access its vast software code, hardware and global communication systems over the Internet.
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