Design Rules Volume 2: Chapter 17—The Wintel Standards-based Platform

28 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2019 Last revised: 15 Mar 2022

Date Written: August 7, 2021


The purpose of this chapter is to use the theory of bottlenecks laid out in the previous chapter to better understand the dynamics of an open standards-based platform. I describe how the Wintel platform evolved from 1990 through 2000 under joint sponsorship of Intel and Microsoft. I first describe a series of technical bottlenecks that arose in the early 1990s concerning the “bus architecture” of IBM-compatible PCs. Intel’s management of buses demonstrates how, under conditions of distributed modular complementarity (DMC), a platform sponsor can reconfigure the modular structure of a technical system and property rights within the system to increase system-wide throughput, while protecting its own strategic bottleneck from disintermediation.

I go on to describe how Microsoft used platform envelopment to establish a second strategic bottleneck in productivity software and later to respond to the threat of disintermediation from platform-independent Internet browsers. I end the chapter by discussing the conditions under which shared platform sponsorship can be a long-term dynamic equilbrium.

Keywords: Technology, Organizations, Modularity

JEL Classification: L1,L2,O3

Suggested Citation

Baldwin, Carliss Y., Design Rules Volume 2: Chapter 17—The Wintel Standards-based Platform (August 7, 2021). Design Rules Volume 2: How Technology Shapes Organization, Available at SSRN: or

Carliss Y. Baldwin (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States

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