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A killer application (commonly shortened to killer app) is a computer
program that is so useful that people will buy a particular brand of
computer simply to run that program.
The first example of a killer app is generally agreed to be the VisiCalc
spreadsheet on the Apple II platform. The machine was purchased in the
thousands by finance workers (in particular, bond traders).
The next example is another spreadsheet, this time Lotus 1-2-3. Sales of
IBM's PC had been slow until 1-2-3 was released, but only months later it
was the best selling computer.
Today there are a limited number of platforms in the world, and the vast
majority of the world runs on the Windows platform. It is unlikely that
there will ever be another killer app that will cause people to purchase an
entirely new machine.
There have been a number of new uses of the term however. For instance
Mosaic is generally credited with causing the majority of computer users to
join the internet, while others argue that e-mail was the reason.