A computing platform is the hardware and software on which an application runs. Hardware platforms are defined by the processor architecture, such as x86 or ARM. Software platforms are often determined by the operating system, such as Windows, macOS, and Linux.

In many cases, "platform" and "operating system" are used interchangeably. However, since an operating system may run on more than one type of hardware, a platform may be further specified as a combination of hardware and software. For example, macOS on Intel hardware is one platform, while macOS on Apple Silcion is another.

The combination of hardware with first and third-party software is called a "platform ecosystem." Mobile platforms are prominent examples. iOS and Android are two dominant mobile platforms that provide app stores with downloadable apps. Video game consoles are platforms with unique hardware and operating systems that run software specifically written for the platform.

iOS and Android are two popular mobile platforms
iOS and Android are two popular mobile platforms
Virtual environments are also considered platforms. For example, the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) is a software platform since it runs Java applications and applets. A web browser may even be considered a platform since web applications can run within it.

Programs that run on multiple platforms are known as cross-platform applications. Some are built on a framework designed for cross-platform apps, while others are written natively for each platform. Translating an app from one platform to another is called porting the application.

Updated March 18, 2023 by Per C.

quizTest Your Knowledge

When was bitcoin introduced as a digital currency?

Correct! Incorrect!     View the Bitcoin definition.
More Quizzes →

The Tech Terms Computer Dictionary

The definition of Platform on this page is an original definition written by the team. If you would like to reference this page or cite this definition, please use the green citation links above.

The goal of is to explain computer terminology in a way that is easy to understand. We strive for simplicity and accuracy with every definition we publish. If you have feedback about this definition or would like to suggest a new technical term, please contact us.

Sign up for the free TechTerms Newsletter

How often would you like to receive an email?

You can unsubscribe or change your frequency setting at any time using the links available in each email.

Questions? Please contact us.