Do you know the term, “killer app?”
Initially coined in the 1990s, a killer app is computer jargon for an application that significantly enhances the value of a larger, host technology. An innovation would be dubbed with this moniker when it became so compelling that the subsequent high adoption rate might literally kill any product and associated businesses that it replaced.
Although no one called it that, perhaps the classic killer app is the internal combustion engine, delivered in its host technology, the automobile. Those invested in the horse-drawn carriage industry – including the proverbial buggy whip – were asphyxiated by that new technology.
Modern killer apps include the Web browser – delivered over the Internet – which changed how we consume media and painfully shifted the paradigms of traditional media – radio, television, newspapers, etc. And ask the U.S. Postal Service about the impact of that little app called the email client – served by the World Wide Web – like Outlook, Eudora, Thunderbird, etc.
Mobile apps – delivered over WiFi and mobile networks – convert content otherwise consumed with a browser on a computer desktop into handy forms developed for the much smaller and variably shaped screens on hand-held devices. Mobile apps are so sexy that they are progressively wounding the personal computer industry. Did IBM see this coming when they sold their global PC business to China’s Lenovo in 2005? Michael Dell, call your office.
In 1998, I began reporting on my radio program about the emerging alternative to Internet dial-up: broadband, aka, “big pipes.” I told my audience then that when broadband Internet becomes ubiquitous the world will change. With the proliferation of WiFi and mobile networks today, the world has changed. Ask any business in an industry that once depended on humans being tethered to a desk, in an office, inside of a building, downtown.
Today, “killer app” is part of the vernacular as a handy metaphor describing any slayer of an entrenched business model. So here are two questions to ask your team in your next meeting: Are we creative and innovative enough to produce a killer app? Or are we so hidebound that we could become the road-kill of someone else’s killer app?
If you’re not trending toward the former you’re slouching toward the latter.
It’s okay to fall in love with what you do, but don’t fall in love with how you do it.
Click on one of the links below to listen or download more about small business killer apps.
Are you an innovator or a killer app victim? with Jim Blasingame
What killer apps are you developing? with Jim Blasingame