Later today Time goes live with a lengthy Josh Quittner look at the evolving concept of platforms — among the wonkiest subjects you can bring to a consumer news mag. (We’ll add a link when it’s up.) His take: Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Facebook, three of the “most innovative” companies in SV “each representing a fundamental phase of the information era,” are duking it out to become the next great platform. They also each represent a different style: Google, more open; Facebook, more controlled; Apple, highly controlled. The winners “stand to make billions selling devices, selling eyeballs to advertisers, selling services such as music, movies, even computer power on demand” but Quittner contends the real battle is over the internet’s very future.
— Marc Andreesen: “Among the things that are different from the old status quo is the idea that one will win … Trying to decide which will win is kind of like debating whether beef, chicken or lobster is going to win the market for food.” (Quittner repeats the rumor that Andreesen could wind up on Facebook’s board.)
— Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg acknowledges the social net’s need to be more open and portable.
— Google’s Joe Kraus argues that OpenSocial makes it easier for developers then designing apps 50 different ways. But Google’s own efforts are layered on, not organic.
— Then there’s the mobile platform: the iPhone, expected June 9 (mocoNews’s Tricia Duryee will be covering it for us live), and Google’s Android. Evangelists like Kleiner Perkins’ Matt Murphy argue that Apple has already provided an open platform. Google says it’s a contender before Android even debuts.
Quittner suggests that everyone wins with this kind of competition. But these are far from the only contenders, just the best fits in a construct. Aggressive Nokia (NYSE: NOK) controls far more handsets than Apple, for instance. Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) may be the PC platform of the past but it’s very much part of the present and a future without it isn’t coming anytime soon. Yes, as he points out, IBM was superceded by Microsoft, which is “losing its power to the Web” but any “next great” will have to go a long way before it’s independent of Windows.