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Killer application

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Title: Killer application  
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Subject: List of Space Invaders video games, Computer display standard, Computing, Registrar (software), Launch game
Collection: Computer Jargon, Computing Terminology, Video Game Marketing
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Killer application

In marketing terminology, a killer application (commonly shortened to killer app) is 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, a programming language, 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]


  • Examples 1
  • Usage 2
    • Selected applications for computer systems 2.1
    • Video games 2.2
  • See also 3
  • References 4


VisiCalc, the earliest generally agreed example of a killer application

One of the first examples of a killer application is generally agreed to be the VisiCalc spreadsheet for the Apple II series.[4] Because it was not available on other computers for 12 months, people spent $100 for the software first, then $2000 to $10,000 on the Apple computer they needed to run it.[5] BYTE wrote in 1980, "VisiCalc is the first program available on a microcomputer that has been responsible for sales of entire systems",[6] while Creative Computing‍ '​s VisiCalc review was subtitled "reason enough for owning a computer".[7] 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.[5]

Lotus 1-2-3 similarly benefited sales of the IBM PC and compatibles, including to Apple owners. 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.'"[5][8] Another killer app is WordStar, the most popular word processor during much of the 1980s.[9] Once the Internet became more widely available to consumers, email was seen as a killer app that drove people to purchase computers, even though email is a genre of applications rather than a single "app."


The first recorded use of the term in print was 1987, in PC Week 8 Sept. 107/2. "Everybody has only one killer application. The secretary has a word processor. The manager has a spreadsheet."[10]

The definition of "killer app" came up during Bill Gates's questioning in the United States v. Microsoft antitrust suit. 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.[11]

Selected applications for computer systems

Video games

The term has also been applied to computer and video games that cause consumers to buy a particular video game console or gaming hardware over a competing one. Examples of a video game killer applications are:

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Early use of the term "Killer Application".
  3. ^ Early use of the term "Killer App".
  4. ^ D.J. Power, A Brief History of Spreadsheets, DSSResources.COM, v3.6, 8 August 2004
  5. ^ a b c
  6. ^
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  10. ^ Earliest usage cited in Oxford English Dictionary
  11. ^
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  20. ^ Craig Glenday, ed (2008-03-11). "Hardware History II". Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2008. Guinness World Records. Guinness. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-904994-21-3.
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