Advertising is the New Killer App

Advertising is the New Killer AppBack in the heyday of the desktop PC, people used to spend a lot of time wondering what would be the next killer app.

The killer app label couldn’t be bestowed upon just any popular application.  The term referred specifically to those applications that were so popular AND hardware intensive that people would upgrade to the newest technology in order to access them.

Solitaire was popular.  Netscape Navigator, Microsoft Office, and Windows 98 were killer apps.

Being unable to access the world wide web or taking 5 minutes to open a Word document would justify spending  $2000-3000 on  a new computer.  Remember, this was back in the day when you bought software in a box from CompUSA, and stamped on the side of that box was a set of hardware requirements.

For all the popularity of the term, a quick google search reveals surprisingly little consensus with regard to actual examples.  In many cases games were the real impetus for upgrades.

Cut to the present day and the situation has only become more muddled.  With the rise of mobile devices, upgrade cycles have been driven increasingly by the harder itself: larger screens, sleeker designs, sharper cameras, and so on.  Hold on to this point…we will return to it in a few minutes.Continue Reading

The iPad Critics Were Right – Contextual Ceilings and The Mobile State of Mind

ipad-consumption-deviceYou may recall a few years ago, when the iPad was first introduced, the tech media didn’t exactly fall head over heals for it.  One of the major criticisms at the time was that it was a consumption device, in contrast to traditional desktops and laptops  which were labeled creation devices.

This is a criticism that has resurfaced (apologies) recently, appearing prominently in Microsoft’s current advertising for its tablet/laptop hybrid.

Negative advertising aside, the apple fans seem to have claimed victory…at the very least in terms of commercial success, and in many minds in terms of the ideological debate as well.

Ipadinsight offers a long list of ways that iPads have been adapted to productive activities.  Some are convincing, while others sound a bit contrived (“iPads helped restructure $270 billion of Greek debt in record time”).  But whatever the merits of this particular list, I have no doubt that touchscreen devices are being deployed in worthwhile and creative ways.

The fact that Microsoft has simply copied the iPad design while partially preserving a few features of a traditional laptop (primarily the keyboard), would seem to indicate that the touchscreen proponents were right all along.

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Still, what stands out about every entry in the list is that they involve use cases that desktops and laptops never served adequately (if at all) in the first place.

What about those use cases that traditional laptops and desktops do address well?

I want to revisit the consumption vs creation debate within the context of tasks that would otherwise be performed on traditional machines, i.e. basic everyday computing tasks.

Based on my own experience within this restricted context, I believe the critics were right.  Ever since touchscreen mobile devices have entered my life I have noticed an insidious increase in consumption (input) and a commensurate undermining of creative output.Continue Reading

Keeping An Eye On Boring Technology

Keeping An Eye On Boring Technology

Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring. -Clay Shirky The same could be true of many kinds of technology. What counts as boring? The ubiquitous…the expected…the familiar. This is a just catchy way of saying that new things only begin to produce an impact once they become sufficiently widespread that they noContinue Reading

Dread and Disequilibrium

Dread and Disequilibrium

Welcome to everyone who has found their way here from the Tempo blog.  To regular subscribers who received an unfinished draft in their email or rss feed, my apologies.  [One of the downsides of automation is that it magnifies small mistakes...one misplaced click and an updated draft is instantly published, tweeted, rss'd, and so on.]Continue Reading

Innovation Starvation and the Zero Bound

Innovation Starvation and the Zero Bound

Recently I’ve become more sympathetic to the argument that big ambitious innovation is slowing.  At first I resisted the notion because frankly it seemed silly.  The advocates of this them overly conflate statistical growth with progress.  Peter Thiel in particular seems to simply be whining that no one has yet built him a jetpack (h/t Scott Smith).Continue Reading

Evolution & Involution

Evolution & Involution

This post will introduce a theme that runs throughout many of the ideas I have been working with recently – the relationship between evolution and involution. We are all familiar with evolution, the idea that micro-scale changes accumulated over time – via consistent selection pressures – can generate macro-scale change.  The evolutionary concept has beenContinue Reading

Economic Development and Conceptual Hierarchies

Economic Development and Conceptual Hierarchies

Apologies for the recent dead air.  I have been taking some time over the last month or two to refresh my brain and focus on other priorities, one of which was a planning a trip to Tanzania (with some travel through Nairobi, Kenya).  It has taken some time on the back end to get overContinue Reading

Building Castles in a Sociological Sandbox

Building Castles in a Sociological Sandbox

A couple weeks ago I joined yet another social network (YASN).  This time it was Path, the mobile social network that limits the social graph to 150 close connections.  I currently have three friends, none of whom I first met in the real world.  It seems that Path is missing its intended market. The first messageContinue Reading