The Building Blocks of Software Platforms: Understanding the Past to Forge the Future

He Li
William J. Kettinger


This study takes a Review and Theory Development (RTD) approach to synthesize the software platform literature, offering theoretical perspective and research guidance. In doing so, we conceptualize platform and complementary capabilities for software platform owners and complementors. The review indicates that three dimensions reflect platform capabilities: intermediarity, generativity, and ambidexterity, while complementary capabilities include creativity, interconnectivity, and appropriability dimensions. We derive an integrative framework of software platforms, which explains (1) how software platform owners and complementors improve performance by enhancing their capabilities; and (2) how software platform owners, complementors, and the ecosystem environment co-evolve. We conclude with a discussion of how future research can build on and enrich the research framework.