Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance
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Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance [Hardcover]

Larry Downes , Chunka Mui , Nicholas Negroponte
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)

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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

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.


"'Just do it' is the message here...Readers are presented with a 12-step 'Digital Strategy' for transforming any organization from cringing-reactionary, dreading the arrival of the next killer app, to flexing-visionary, aggressively preparing to hatch and unleash future killer apps.... [The authors] write with an in-your-face style that airs out the mustiness from a book aimed at business execs." -- San Jose Mercury News, May 3, 1998

"For the uninitiated, this book is a great primer on the forces driving the new economy: the surge in computing power, the exponentially rising value of networks, and the plunging cost of transactions." and "The authors, both consultants, offer a dozen design principles of relevance to businesses small and large alike." -- Tom Petzinger, The Wall Street Journal, June 22, 1998

"For those in traditional, small-medium sizes companies wondering if they should take the plunge into e-whatever, these concrete examples will be very useful in showing both the peril and the potential." -- Upside, July 1998

"It's rare that a business book distinguishes itself among the pack of cookie-cutter manifestos. KILLER APP rises above with skillfully written analysis and compelling company profiles that combine to map today's digital landscape." -- The Industry Standard, May 11, 1998

"Provocatively counterintuitive....truly eye-opening." -- Technology Review, July-August 1998

"Unleashing the Killer App...is a best-of-breed primer for executives cramming for the new economy." -- Wired, May 1998

From the Publisher

A Business Week Bestseller. and A New York Times Business Bestseller.

From the Inside Flap

When technologies, products, and services converge in radical, creative new ways, a "killer app" can emerge-a new application so powerful that it transforms industries, redefines markets, and annihilates the competition. The compass, the steam engine, the cotton gin, and the Model T were all killer apps that sent shock waves through the social, political, and economic systems of their time. Today's killer apps spring from the digital realm: the personal computer, e-mail, and the World Wide Web have profoundly influenced and even altered society far beyond their intended use. Tempted by the promise of such devastating power, companies large and small, from vast multinationals to lean entrepreneurial start-ups, are remaking themselves into organizations that nurture killer apps rather than succumb to them.

How is it done? In this groundbreaking new book, strategists Downes and Mui argue that managers must abandon many of their most revered planning and control processes. The most commonly used tools for setting and executing strategy, artifacts of the industrial age, make for inadequate weapons in today's digital arena. Leaders must replace control and consistency, contend Downes and Mui, with chaos and creativity, and old strategies must be jettisoned in favor of digital ones. Unleashing the Killer App demonstrates how managers are rewriting the rules of business to face this digital ultimatum.

Organizations with the healthiest environment for identifying and fostering killer apps will translate their digital strategy into market dominance. With Unleashing the Killer App, Downes and Mui offer a progressive guide to transforming your company into a place where killer apps are born. Drawing from their experience and research with leading global businesses, the authors:
* Identify the twelve fundamental design principles for building killer apps
* Illustrate these principles with classic stories from history and examples from a wide range of industries that have successfully developed killer apps
* Examine the economic consequences of the diminishing transaction costs in cyberspace
* Describe how to integrate digital strategy into an organization's planning process to create new markets, form new customer relationships, and change the product line.

Digital strategy, say Downes and Mui, is more than a vision statement. It is an attitude that thoroughly permeates winning businesses. Managed effectively, it becomes a potent operating model for the business itself. Unleashing the Killer App provides the tools, the techniques, and the proof that you need to incubate-perhaps even release-the killer app within your organization. Are you ready to compete?

From the Back Cover

"When confronted with market disruption and technology revolution, your biggest challenge is letting go of comfortable old behaviors before they kill you. Downes and Mui get you to move quickly by analyzing the inherent threats embedded in the digital age's "killer apps," and then showing you how to turn those apps into new types of competitive advantage."
-Geoffrey A. Moore, Chairman, The Chasm Group, and Author of Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado

"Unleashing the Killer App reinvents strategy for the digital age. It's a major contribution to our understanding of the age of the Internet and a must-read for anyone interested in succeeding in the interactive future."
-Don Peppers, Coauthor, The One To One Future and Enterprise One To One

"Downes and Mui go behind the scenes to tell their readers how yesterday's little-known players unleashed killer apps to become today's industry giants. Entrepreneurs who want to make a serious contribution to the digital economy must read Unleashing the Killer App."
-Kim Polese, President and CEO, Marimba, Inc.

"Anybody who still thinks the dawn of the Virtual Age is a pipe-dream had better read this book....Unleashing the Killer App is a scary book for those who've bet the farm on their idea of The Firm." -John Perry Barlow, Co-Founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation "Killer App is the Killer Navigator for digital voyages."
-Alan Kay, Disney Fellow and Vice President of R&D, Walt Disney Imagineering

"Very thought-provoking and interesting. It will certainly stimulate a great deal of discussion and is quite accessible to a wide readership. Downes and Mui present a very compelling and novel set of arguments, quite relevant to today's business decision makers."
-David P. Reed, former Vice President and Chief Scientist, Lotus Development Corporation

"Larry and Chunka will push their readers' thinking off the beaten path." --Andrew Lippman, Associate Director, Media Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology "This book really should be read by everyone in business who is concerned about how their businesses will emigrate to cyberspace."
--Joe Pine, Founder, Strategic Horizons LLP, and Author, Mass Customization

"Unleashing the Killer App provides three vital things: a cogent analysis of what is happening to value (not just technology) in the business arena, a framework for thinking about principle-centered action during these volatile times, and a link to executive action....The linkage among Coase, Moore, and Metcalfe is elegant and relevant."
--John Sviokla, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School

About the Author

Larry Downes is a consultant and speaker, and writer. He is an adjunct professor of law at Northwestern University and a visiting fellow of the Diamond Exchange, an executive learning forum that brings together senior executives with leading strategy, technology, and learning experts. Chunka Mui is a partner with Diamond Technology Partners, director of the Diamond Exchange, and executive editor of the business journal Context.
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