Killer App

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. 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.[1][2]


One of the first examples of a killer application is generally agreed to be the VisiCalc spreadsheet for the Apple II series.[3] Because it was not available on other computers for 12 months, people purchased the $100 software first, then the $2000 Apple they needed to run it.[4] BYTE wrote in 1980, "VisiCalc is the first program available on a microcomputer that has been responsible for sales of entire systems",[5] while Creative Computing's VisiCalc review was subtitled "reason enough for owning a computer".[6] The machine was purchased in the thousands by finance workers on the strength of this program.[7] Another is WordStar, the most popular word processor during much of the 1980s.[8] 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 release. 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 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.[9]

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


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.