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Communications of the ACM

Technology Strategy and Management

Generative AI as a New Innovation Platform

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Rising attention about generative AI prompts the question: Are we witnessing the birth of a new innovation platform? The answer seems to be yes, though it remains to be seen how pervasive this new technology will become.

To have an innovation platform, there must be a foundational technology, such as a widely adopted personal computer or smartphone operating system, or the Internet and cloud-computing services with application programming interfaces (APIs) (see "The Cloud as an Innovation Platform for Software Development," Communications, October 2019). Third parties are then needed to access these APIs and start creating complementary products and services. More applications attract more users, which leads to more applications and then more users, and usually improvements in the foundational technology. Self-reinforcing positive feedback loops ("network effects") between users and applications usually indicate the presence of a new innovation platform and supporting ecosystem.12,26


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