Google has published a technical paper describing the Google File System (GFS). GFS is a distributed, scalable file system for Google applications. Consider this paragraph at the conclusion of the report:GFS has successfully met our storage needs and is widely used within Google as the storage platform for research and development as well as production data processing. It is an important tool that enables us to continue to innovate and attack problems on the scale of the entire web. You can think of GFS as a product platform -- it has a structure that would carry the Eiffel Tower.
In Revolutionizing Product Development, author Steven Wheelwright states that Steinway uses a product platform and has introduced only one major new piano model between 1970 and 1990. "Steinway customizes each piano, however, making it a handmade work of art. Steinway offers no two identical pianos, yet produces only a handful of core models."
Here's a secret: Product platforms make your life easier. It's hard work, however, once the platform is in place you can focus on craftsmanship and your customers.
When done correctly, product platforms lead to fast-cycle development, which in turn accelerates learning about technology, customer needs, and customer groups. For product platforms are sharp, two-edged swords, cutting costs with one edge and increasing revenues with the other. If two companies are at swords' points over market share, and only one uses a product platform, it's likely the one with a product platform will win market share. When you redirect your resources from single products to platforms, you'll be able to improvise and adjust to the needs of your market.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to make a decision after you sample a product? Without a sample to taste or a model to touch, management may have to make important decisions based solely on PowerPoint slides. Product platforms enable you to create demonstrations, so you don't have to rely on presentations.