Killer Apps: the Defining Applications of Each Computing Wave

Take a look at this chart from O’Reilly Radar: You say you want a revolution? It’s called post-PC computing:

1011-10b-devices-580

We are entering a new computing wave, where a new technology platform will revolutionize software.

In each previous wave, there has been a defining piece of software.  This is the software which defined that computing era — why computers were bought and what they were used for.  It leveraged the full potential of the available platform., enabled things which were not possible before, and, in the process, drove the adoption of the underlying platform:

Mainframes

The mainframe era was all about data processing. The defining app of the mainframe era was the database. Databases power all the big mainframe software which run airlines, banks, utilities, governments, and universities.  It was these database-driven applications which made all those big organizations buy mainframes — even today.

PC’s

The PC made computing smaller — “personal” — and the defining app of the PC era was the spreadsheet. The Mac may have been cooler, but it’s not called the “PC Era” for nothing: Spreadsheets turned the personal computer from a toy into a ubiquitous business tool, which in turn drove the adoption of PC’s and turned Microsoft into a giant .

Web

Why do you use the web?  Because of content.  A recipe.  An article.  A post or tweet from a friend.  The web is ultimately about content, and the defining app of the web era is the blog. The blog is the simplest, most popular content creation system, and its simplicity is helping us create content at a torrential pace.   This vast ocean of content is what makes Google useful.  YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are really blogs in extremis: even simpler and more connected ways to publish content.  And because of all the blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc., we’re on the web more than ever.

Do You See a Pattern Yet?

In every computing wave, the defining app has become:

  • Smaller
  • More distributed
  • Less structured data
  • More fun

Mobile

So what will be the defining app of the Mobile era?  Something which runs on smaller devices, is highly distributed, yet also highly connected, and very entertaining.

The defining app of the Mobile era will be games: Massively multi-player games which connect and entertain all of us.   It doesn’t mean that we should all go write (or play) games, but we should all start thinking “How can what-I-do be more like Farmville or World of Warcraft?”

4 Comments

  1. pc: word processing
    Web: search engines / forum

  2. “The defining app of the Mobile era will be games: Massively multi-player games which connect and entertain all of us. It doesn’t mean that we should all go write (or play) games, but we should all start thinking “How can what-I-do be more like Farmville or World of Warcraft?”

    psml! Are you sure you aren’t the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons?

  3. Ha ha. Here’s to the Android’s Dungeon in all of us.

  4. I always thought spreadsheets were more versatile than word processing tools and more “strictly business”, so that’s why I chose it.

    Forums are less versatile than blogs, and also they existed in the pre-web era of dial up bulletin board services (BBS).

    Search engines are only useful because there is content, much of it created by blogs.