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A hardware platform is a set of compatible hardware on which software applications can be run. Each specific hardware platform has its own machine language, and programs must be built specifically for a platform that involves a standardized type of processor and associated hardware pieces.
In fact, the word "platform" has been extremely useful in IT to refer to the specific structures within which software programs will run. Tools like application programming interfaces (APIs) are used to make software compatible with a particular platform.
In some cases, operating systems might be classified as hardware platforms. Technically, operating systems are their own software programs that must be built for a hardware platform. For example, IBM PC hardware is designed to run certian operating systems, while the Apple hardware platform runs others.
IT professionals may refer to newer devices like smartphones and tablets as having their own individual hardware platforms. With the rise of cloud hosting and Web-delivered services, the word platform has also been used to refer to free-floating, or multiplatform, software platforms that use the Internet rather than a specific hardware platform to connect with individual machines or work stations.