Killer application

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In marketing terminology, a killer application (commonly shortened to killer app) is any computer program or software that is so necessary or desirable that it proves the core value of some larger technology, such as computer hardware, a video game console, software, a programming language, a software platform, or an operating system. [1] In other words, consumers would buy the (usually expensive) hardware just to run that application. A killer app can substantially increase sales of the platform on which it runs. [2] [3]



One mark of a good computer is the appearance of a piece of software specifically written for that machine that does something that, for a while at least, can only be done on that machine.

Steven Levy, 1985 [4]
VisiCalc, the earliest generally agreed-upon example of a killer application Visicalc.png
VisiCalc, the earliest generally agreed-upon example of a killer application

One of the first recognized examples of a killer application is generally agreed to be the VisiCalc spreadsheet for the Apple II series. [4] [5] Because it was not available on other computers for 12 months, people spent $100 for the software first, then $2,000 to $10,000 on the Apple computer they needed to run it. [6] BYTE wrote in 1980, "VisiCalc is the first program available on a microcomputer that has been responsible for sales of entire systems", [7] while Creative Computing 's VisiCalc review was subtitled "reason enough for owning a computer". [8] Others also chose to develop software, such as EasyWriter, for the Apple II first because of its higher sales, helping Apple defeat rivals Commodore International and Tandy Corporation. [6]

Lotus 1-2-3 similarly benefited sales of the IBM PC. [4] Noting that computer purchasers did not want PC compatibility as much as compatibility with certain PC software, InfoWorld suggested "let's tell it like it is. Let's not say 'PC compatible,' or even 'MS-DOS compatible.' Instead, let's say '1-2-3 compatible.'" [6] [9] Another killer app is WordStar, the most popular word processor during much of the 1980s. [10]

The UNIX Operating System served as a killer application for the DEC PDP-11 minicomputer and VAX-11 minicomputer during roughly 1975–1985. Many of the PDP-11 and VAX-11 processors never ran DEC's operating systems (RSTS or VAX/VMS), but instead, they ran UNIX, which was first licensed in 1975. To get a virtual-memory UNIX (BSD 3.0) you had to purchase a VAX-11 computer. Many universities wanted a general-purpose timesharing system that would meet the needs of students and researchers (early versions of UNIX included free compilers for C, Fortran, and Pascal; at the time, offering even one free compiler was unprecedented). From its inception UNIX could drive high-quality typesetting equipment and later PostScript printers using the nroff/troff typesetting language, and this was also unprecedented for its time. UNIX was the first operating system offered in source-license form (a university license cost only $10,000, less than a PDP-11), allowing it to run on an unlimited number of machines, and allowing the machines to interface to any type of hardware because the UNIX I/O system was extensible.


The first recorded use of the term in print was 1988, in PC Week 24 May. 39/1. "Everybody has only one killer application. The secretary has a word processor. The manager has a spreadsheet." [11]

The definition of "killer app" came up during Bill Gates's questioning in the United States v. Microsoft Corp. antitrust case. Bill Gates had written an email in which he described Internet Explorer as a killer app. In the questioning, he said that the term meant "a popular application", and did not connote an application that would fuel sales of a larger product or one that would supplant its competition, as the Microsoft Computer Dictionary defined it.

Introducing the iPhone in 2007, Steve Jobs said that "the killer app is making calls." [12] Reviewing the iPhone's first decade, David Pierce for Wired wrote that although Jobs did indeed prioritize a good experience making calls in the phone's development, other features of the phone soon turned out to be more important, such as its data connectivity and ability to install third-party software (which was added later). [13]

Video games

The term has also been applied to computer and video games that persuade consumers to buy a particular video game console or other video game hardware product over a competing one, by virtue of being exclusive to that platform. Such a game is also known in video game parlance as a "system seller". Examples of video game killer applications are:

Other applications

See also

Related Research Articles

History of video games Aspect of history

The history of video games goes as far back as the early 1950s, when academic computer scientists began designing simple games and simulations as part of their research or just for recreation. At M.I.T. in the 1960s, professors and students played games such as 3D tic-tac-toe and Moon Landing. These games were played on computers such as the IBM 1560, and moves were made by means of punch cards. Video gaming did not reach mainstream popularity until the 1970s and 1980s, when video arcade games and gaming consoles using joysticks, buttons, and other controllers, along with graphics on computer screens and home computer games were introduced to the general public. Since the 1980s, video gaming has become a popular form of entertainment and a part of modern popular culture in most parts of the world. One of the early games was Spacewar!, which was developed by computer scientists. Early arcade video games developed from 1972 to 1978. During the 1970s, the first generation of home consoles emerged, including the popular game Pong and various "clones". The 1970s was also the era of mainframe computer games. The golden age of arcade video games was from 1978 to 1982. Video arcades with large, graphics-decorated coin-operated machines were common at malls and popular, affordable home consoles such as the Atari 2600 and Intellivision enabled people to play games on their home TVs. During the 1980s, gaming computers, early online gaming and handheld LCD games emerged; this era was affected by the video game crash of 1983. From 1976 to 1992, the second generation of video consoles emerged.

VisiCalc spreadsheet software

VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet computer program for personal computers, originally released for the Apple II by VisiCorp. It is often considered the application that turned the microcomputer from a hobby for computer enthusiasts into a serious business tool, prompting IBM to introduce the IBM PC two years later. VisiCalc is considered the Apple II's killer app. It sold over 700,000 copies in six years, and as many as 1 million copies over its history.

Video game console Interactive entertainment computer or customized computer system for running video games

A video game console is a computer device that outputs a video signal or visual image to display a video game that one or more people can play.

In computing, cross-platform software is computer software that is implemented on multiple computing platforms. Cross-platform software may be divided into two types; one requires individual building or compilation for each platform that it supports, and the other one can be directly run on any platform without special preparation, e.g., software written in an interpreted language or pre-compiled portable bytecode for which the interpreters or run-time packages are common or standard components of all platforms.

2005 saw the release of many sequels and prequels in video games, such as Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30, Mario Kart DS, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time and Need for Speed: Most Wanted, alongside several prominent new releases including F.E.A.R., Forza Motorsport, God of War, Guitar Hero, Shadow of the Colossus, and Sniper Elite.

Visi On Visi On was a graphical User Interface for MS-DOS from the software producer Visicorp.

VisiCorp Visi On was a short-lived but highly influential graphical user interface-based operating environment program for IBM compatible personal computers running MS-DOS. Although Visi On was never popular, as it had steep minimum system requirements for its day, it was a major influence on the later development of Microsoft Windows.

Homebrew (video games) term applied to video games or other software produced by consumers to target proprietary hardware platforms that are not typically user-programmable or that use proprietary storage methods

Homebrew is a term frequently applied to video games or other software produced by consumers to target proprietary hardware platforms that are not typically user-programmable or that use proprietary storage methods. This can include games developed with official development kits, such as Net Yaroze, Linux for PlayStation 2 or Microsoft XNA. A game written by a non-professional developer for a system intended to be consumer-programmable, like the Commodore 64, is simply called hobbyist.

Turtle Beach Corporation American gaming accessory manufacturer

The Turtle Beach Corporation is a global gaming accessory manufacturer based in San Diego, California. It produces gaming headsets for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices. The company has roots dating back to the 1970s where it developed sound cards, MIDI synthesizers, and various audio software packages and network audio devices.

The seventh generation of video game consoles began on November 22, 2005, with the release of Microsoft's Xbox 360 home console. This was soon followed by the release of Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation 3 on November 17, 2006 and Nintendo's Wii on November 19, 2006, the following year. Each new console introduced new technologies. The Xbox 360 offered games rendered natively at high-definition video (HD) resolutions, the PlayStation 3 offered HD movie playback via a built-in 3D Blu-ray Disc player, and the Wii focused on integrating controllers with movement sensors as well as joysticks. Some Wii controllers could be moved about to control in-game actions, which enabled players to simulate real-world actions through movement during gameplay. By this generation, video game consoles had become an important part of the global IT infrastructure; it is estimated that video game consoles represented 25% of the world's general-purpose computational power in 2007.

Motion controller type of game controller that uses accelerometers or other sensors

In video games and entertainment systems, a motion controller is a type of game controller that uses accelerometers or other sensors to track motion and provide input.

Nintendo video game consoles Wikimedia list article

The Japanese multinational consumer electronics company Nintendo has developed seven home video game consoles and multiple portable consoles for use with external media, as well as dedicated consoles and other hardware for their consoles. As of September 30, 2015, Nintendo has sold over 722.22 million hardware units.

Video game console emulator program that reproduces video game consoles behavior

A video game console emulator is a type of emulator that allows a computing device to emulate a video game console's hardware and play its games on the emulating platform. More often than not, emulators carry additional features that surpass the limitations of the original hardware, such as broader controller compatibility, timescale control, greater performance, clearer quality, easier access to memory modifications, one-click cheat codes, and unlocking of gameplay features. Emulators are also a useful tool in the development process of homebrew demos and the creation of new games for older, discontinued, or more rare consoles.

Platform exclusivity refers to the status of a video game being developed for and released only on certain platforms. Most commonly, it refers to only being released on a specific video game console or through a specific vendor's platforms—either permanently, or for a definite period of time.

A home video game console or simply home console, is a video game device that is primarily used for home gamers, as opposed to in arcades or some other commercial establishment. Home consoles are one type of video game consoles, in contrast to the handheld game consoles which are smaller and portable, allowing people to carry them and play them at any time or place, along with microconsoles and dedicated consoles.

Wii U Home video game console released by Nintendo in 2012

The Wii U is a home video game console developed by Nintendo as the successor to the Wii. Released in late 2012, it is the first eighth-generation video game console and competed with Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4.

The eighth generation of consoles includes consoles released since 2012 by Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. For home video game consoles, the eighth generation began on November 18, 2012, with the release of the Wii U, and continued with the release of the PlayStation 4 (PS4) on November 15, 2013, and the Xbox One on November 22, 2013. The Wii U was the first home console of this generation to be discontinued, on January 31, 2017, to make way for Nintendo's second home console competitor, the Nintendo Switch, released on March 3, 2017. These video game consoles follow their seventh generation predecessors from the same three companies: Nintendo's Wii, Sony's PlayStation 3, and Microsoft's Xbox 360. Throughout the generation, Sony and Microsoft continued to release hardware upgrades to their flagship consoles. In August 2016 and September 2016, Microsoft and Sony respectively both released "slim" revisions of their consoles, the Xbox One S and the PlayStation 4 Slim. The Xbox One S notably added support for HDR video and Ultra HD Blu-ray, while Sony released a software update to add HDR to all existing PlayStation 4 consoles; the PlayStation 4 Slim does not support UHD Blu-ray. Following this was an upgraded version of the PlayStation 4, the PlayStation 4 Pro, which was released later in November 2016; meanwhile, Microsoft also announced an upgraded version of the Xbox One in 2016 under the name Project Scorpio. This would become the Xbox One X, released a year later in November 2017. Both of these consoles were aimed at providing upgraded hardware to support rendering games at up to 4K resolution.

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