Platforms have been in the blogs a bit in the past couple of months, and after this week they are in my mind as well. Trying to decide which platforms to understand, support, and follow is a key problem for anyone in this business. I recommend all these links for a good range of thought on what platforms are, and how platform developers think differently than application developers.
Brent Sleeper jumps in this week with his take on platforms. Ray Ozzie, Joel Spolsky, and Dave Winer recently discussed platforms (Joel, Ray's first response, Joel's response, Dave's input, Ray's platform piece).
The platform vendor (whether a single vendor or a consortium of vendors) has a vested interest in my having NO MORE THAN limited success. If I create an application on top of the platform that is too profitable, they will try as hard as they can to pull that revenue stream back into the platform which means I have to respond to the customer faster than the platform vendor to remain viable. If my needs at the platform level don't generate enough revenue, I will hear "its coming in a future release" until I run out of money:).
So where are my bets in the short term? Well, I am betting on platforms that are globally transparent (licensing and pricing models that scale globally) meaning that I can leverage work being done around the globe. I don't think those will be single vendor proprietary platforms, but that is just me:).