The myth of the ‘killer app’

I wrote an editorial for BeNews about this once (and I think I had copied it on OSNews a few years later too) but I can’t find a link anymore. In a nutshell, my opinion is that there is no such thing as a “killer app”. The “killer app” myth has been popular among many alternative OS followers, who were always trying to pinpoint and re-create/port a major application to their platform thinking that this would launch their pet OS to the mainstream (dream on). But getting people switching to any OS can not be solely the job of a single app. Even if Photoshop gets ported to Linux for example, its desktop experience would continue to put off a lot of people.

There are ways to make money or make people wanna switch by offering more innovative software than the competition, but this does not mean that your software will change the world. Firefox is better than IE, but it did not fundamentally change the way we browse the net. Firefox is not a killer app. It’s simply a better app.

All this does not mean that there are no “killer technologies” though. I strongly believe that the next big thing in software (I mean, in life-changing terms) is Artificial Intelligence. We are a few years off still, but eventually, companies will realize that natural language and full speech recognition is the way to go (especially for mobile devices). AI has been a dream for many years now, but last year OpenCyc 1.0 was released. While the important libraries of Cyc are still closed source, there is nothing keeping Google or Apple or MS from buying the company and start building on top of what’s already implemented. Half of the work is already done. What’s left is the right vision for the future. Instead of having Apple showcasing their latest shiny black interface and call that innovation, I would much rather have AI and full speech recognition integrated to OSX. Or Windows. Or Linux.


Guy Martin wrote on February 14th, 2007 at 1:37 AM PST:

For ‘AI-lite’ check out ConceptNet from MIT. While not AI in the traditional sense, it does allow for some interesting ‘associations’ to be made based on ‘Crowdsourcing’, which can be used like Lego building blocks to build some interesting apps.

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Eugenia wrote on February 14th, 2007 at 1:41 AM PST:

Thanks for the link Guy. I actually worked on an AI project right after college for 2 years. The project went nowhere, but it has altered my view of the future…

Oliver Herold wrote on February 14th, 2007 at 2:43 AM PST:

>full speech recognition

Ack. This would be really an evolution to computers and a help for many disabled persons around the globe.

mikesum32 wrote on February 14th, 2007 at 6:31 AM PST:

One of the biggest setbacks in speech recognition was the founders of Dragon Naturally Speaking selling the company to Lernout & Hauspie in for stock. Later that year, it was determined Lernout & Hauspie fabricated revenues of $277 million.

Then a year later they went under. Dr. James Baker and Dr. Janet Baker (the c-founders of Dragon) tried unsuccessfully to get their baby back.

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Eugenia wrote on February 14th, 2007 at 12:58 PM PST:

Today there is no such app though. These were the days where computer functionality was limited, as far as the general public was concerned. This gave boost to some such apps between 1978 and 1985. But when computers became more generic in terms of what they can do, these “killer app” lines were blurred. Today, you CAN’T have any kind of app that would be as killer as visicalc was back then. But you can have major technologies instead (like AI).

mikesum32 wrote on February 14th, 2007 at 12:56 PM PST:

There was Visicalc.

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