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Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance Paperback – March, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; Revised Edition edition (March 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578512611
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578512614
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,210,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

You don't have to look far to see that technology is driving today's economy. Turn on CNBC, open The Economist, scan the Wall Street Journal--you'll find that technology is the prime force creating growth in almost every industry. In Unleashing the Killer App, authors Larry Downes and Chunka Mui look at the dynamics of technological change and its potential to create "killer apps." The authors describe a killer app as a product or service that "wind up displacing unrelated older offerings, destroying and re-creating industries far from their immediate use, and throwing into disarray the complex relationships between business partners, competitors, customers, and regulators of markets." Examples of killer apps throughout history include the Welsh longbow, the pulley, the compass, moveable type, and the Apple Macintosh. And today, with our increasingly networked economy (for example, the World Wide Web), killer apps are appearing all around us.

Downes and Mui argue that the dominant trend behind the proliferation of killer apps is a combination of Moore's Law, which states that the processing power of the CPU doubles every 18 months, and Metcalfe's Law, which observes that the value of a network increases dramatically with each node that's added to it. These two laws are fundamentally changing how businesses interact with each other and with their customers. To exploit these changes, the authors outline 12 points for designing a digital strategy to help you identify and create killer apps in your own organization. The book includes dozens of examples of how killer apps were discovered and implemented.

Unleashing the Killer App provides an excellent framework for rethinking the nature of business in today's wired economy. No matter the size of your company or what it does--health care, publishing, or fast food--there's probably a killer app lurking somewhere. This book will help you find it. Highly recommended. --Harry C. Edwards --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

To succeed in businessAwhether you work for a large corporation or own your own companyAyou have to be ready with the "killer application," the next wave of cybertechnology. Owing to the rapidly changing business environment, particularly because of the World Wide Web, managers will inevitably lose out to competition if they're not utilizing the latest technology. Companies must alter their operating philosophy from a strategy intended to provide growth for a two- to three-year period to a constantly evolving approach. "What has changed... are the basic principles underlying how you develop products, operate, and yes, even plan. To succeed digitally, you need to eat, sleep, breathe, and think digitally." The authors have devised a 12-step program designed to be "the beginning of a building code for commercial organizations in cyberspace." Among these strategies: structuring transactions as a joint venture, cannibalizing market share and hiring the children. The authors are serious; they advise executives to listen to young people, including their own children. By watching children play with video games or computers, executives can learn more about their products than if they tried to perform the same tasks. The authors, affiliated with Diamond Technology Partners, an executive learning forum, provide various examples of companies that have successfully incorporated these strategies, including AOL, McDonald's and Lotus Notes. With an insightful foreword by Nicholas Negroponte, this book presents a convincing case for a radical shift in current business strategies.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The book is well written with excellent examples.
dbmurray@nowalls.com
Part one introduces generation defining technologies, i.e. "Killer Apps", the new economics, and the "digital strategy".
William L. James
This book is an absolute must read for all of those involved or interested in e-commerce.
Jane Johnson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The authors define a "killer application" as "a new good or service that establishes an entirely new category and, by being first, dominates it, returning several hundred percent on the initial investment." As they explain, the primary forces at work in spawning today's "killer apps" are both technological and economic in nature. "The technology we are concerned with is the transformation of information into digital form, where it can be manipulated by computers and transmitted by networks." Digital strategies are needed to achieve market dominance. They suggest several, each worthy of careful consideration. For me, this book has two great values: It helps us to understand what a "killer app" is and can accomplish; also, for those lacking a "killer app" and without much chance of possessing one, it suggests how to increase and enhance the appeal of what one does have, such as it is. Given a choice, of course, anyone would prefer to have a "killer app" when proceeding into an uncertain future. Lacking one, there are still opportunities to recognize...and to pursue. Most companies will not dominate but can survive if committed to the appropriate strategies. For them, this book could well be the difference between life and death.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I've just re-read this book and think more highly of it now than I did previously. Larry Downes & Chunka Mui define a "killer application" as "a new good or service that establishes an entirely new category and, by being first, dominates it, returning several hundred percent on the initial investment." As they explain, the primary forces at work in spawning today's "killer apps" are both technological and economic in nature. "The technology we are concerned with is the transformation of information into digital form, where it can be manipulated by computers and transmitted by networks." Digital strategies are needed to achieve market dominance.
The co-authors divide their book into three parts: Digital Strategy, Designing the Killer App, and Unleashing the Killer App. In Part I, there is a brief discussion of one "killer app" in the Middle Ages, the stirrup, which added mounted cavalry to the battle equation. The "lowly stirrup" played a singular role in rearranging the political, social, and economic structure of medieval Europe.
In The Lever of Riches, Joel Mokyr identifies countless other "killer apps" throughout history such as paved streets and sewerage disposal; the lever, wedge, and screw; the heavy plow and three-field system; the weight-driven mechanical clock; spectacles; the printing press; the steam engine; the telegraph; the bicycle; ...each of which also had a truly profound impact.
To repeat, Larry Downes & Chunka Mui concern themselves with the technology of transforming information into digital form. Thus in Part I, they examine the "killer app", explain what they call "the new economics", and then shift their attention to the nature of a digital strategy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I was disappointed. The 12 principles were so vague as to be useless. As a web developer, every time I read these so-called strategy books I'm so disappointed. They're all written the same way -- the author makes some kind of statement that they think is profound, like "Treat your customers as a market segment of 1" then they write about one or two companies they've found that supposedly follow this statement. Well guess what, for every "principle" you can find a company that violates it and is wildly successful. For example, Microsoft doesn't treat it's customers as a "market segment of 1" and it's kicking *ss. I can easily find examples of successful web companies that don't follow the authors' principles, which leaves me wondering about how serious to take them.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
If you ever want to read a book that attempts to use every technology buzzword in existance, this is the one. This book has some interesting examples of companies that are gaining a competitive advantage using technology, but the author's try to be a little too "cute" with their knowledge of industry buzzwords. Give only a cursory reading of part 1 or just skip it and go right to part 2 and 3.
One thing that really annoyed me thoughout the book was the author's attempts to create then overuse something called Metcalf's Law and Moore's Law out of a couple of common sense observations. In each chapter, the authors constantly refered back to Metcalf's Law and Moore's Law as if these "laws" are on the same plateau as some created by Einstein. Both Metcalf and Moore are intellegent, excellent inventors, and astute businessmen, but I would never try to create some "law" out of a couple of common sense observations. After reading this book, I envision the authors having statues of Metcalf and Moore in their offices that they kneel in front of daily for inspiration.
My opinion, don't spend your own money on this book. Borrow it or get your company to pay for it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Vithal Kulkarni on March 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
My purpose for choosing this book is two-fold. Firstly, it appears on the reading list for the E-commerce course of my MBA/MSE Program at San Jose State University in California. Secondly, the words "Killer Apps" caught my attention because it is apps like these (recall what Lotus 1-2-3 did to the business usage of computers) that give technology its future direction.
Killer Apps are not just a recent digital age phenomenon. They have manifested in past in the form of inventions like arch, pulleys, the steam engine, lightbulbs; and have impacted the society in a huge way. The authors in this book have done a fantastic job of describing the characteristics of true killer apps and have aptly illustrated the degree of impact they can have on the society.
Given the breakneck pace of revolution in technology, the chance of killer apps springing up from previously unknown corners has increased manifold. This book is a must read not only for those newbies starting out their first venture, but also for those seasoned and successful entrepreneurs who wish to reap further benefits by keeping an open-mind in recognizing these killer apps as they evolve.
The 12 principles outlined for designing killer apps really make one think, and, their association with real life examples could not have been more appropriate. Although this book mentions technology as the harbinger for killer apps, it leans more towards strategy than technology itself. So if you are looking for some cool new technology it may not be the best place.
Although a slightly old book, it was, is, and will be very thought provoking because it addresses some fundamental aspects of developing a winning business strategy.
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