Killer application

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A killer application (commonly shortened to killer app), in the jargon of technologists, has been used to refer to any computer program that is so necessary or desirable that it proves the core value of some larger technology, such as computer hardware, gaming console, software, or an operating system. A killer app can substantially increase sales of the platform on which it runs.


One of the first examples of a killer application is generally agreed to be the VisiCalc spreadsheet on the Apple II platform.[1] The machine was purchased in the thousands by finance workers (in particular, bond traders) on the strength of this program.[2] The next example is another spreadsheet, Lotus 1-2-3. Sales of IBM's PC had been slow until 1-2-3 was made public, and then increased rapidly a few months after Lotus 1-2-3's initial release.

A killer app can provide an important niche market for a non-mainstream platform. Aldus PageMaker and Adobe PostScript gave the graphic design and desktop publishing niche to the Apple Macintosh in the late 1980s,[citation needed] a niche it retains to this day[citation needed], despite the fact that PCs running Windows or Linux have been capable of running versions of some of the same applications since the early 1990s. Email was seen as a Killer App for the Internet at its inception.

The term has also been applied to computer and video games that cause consumers to buy a particular video game console or gaming hardware. An example of a killer application is Star Raiders, released in 1979 on cartridge for the Atari 8-bit computer. Another "killer app", Space Invaders, was released in 1980 and quadrupled sales of then three year old Atari 2600 platform. The VCS became a sell-out over Christmas. Sonic the Hedgehog was also hailed a killer app for the Sega Mega Drive. The Super Nintendo saw Street Fighter II, the Game Boy saw Tetris, the Game Boy Color saw Pokémon and the Nintendo 64 saw much success with the releases of GoldenEye 007, Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The original PlayStation revitalized the RPG genre with Final Fantasy VII. Grand Theft Auto 3 was a killer app for the PlayStation 2. The Xbox saw the first-person shooter killer app Halo: Combat Evolved. The Wii had the first killer app oriented to casual gamers and hardcore games alike, the Wii Sports game, bundled with the console in most parts of the world.

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