Las Vegas -- Why are so many "killer apps" dead-on-arrival?
The digital landscape is strewn with corpses: Microchannel, OS-2, web-surfing
TV, network appliances, web pads. All were technologically sound and highly
touted by their sponsors. But they never survived beyond an all-too brief life
The mortality rate should be of prime interest to OEMs, their vendors and the
supply chain as the market cranks up for the latest influx of killer-apps
products. The extravaganza of fanciful new home electronics, the Consumer
Electronics Show, last week was replete with every conceivable new device you
could think of. Many could join the obituaries of premature death if they fall
victim to the same fatal marketing malaise.
Even very mature technologies, such as the PC, are having an uphill struggle to
expand ubiquitously into most of the world's living rooms. And the jury is still
out on how fast the vaunted 3G mobile phone will take over the North American
and European markets.
Pat Moorhead, Advanced Micro Devices vice president of marketing, felt a major
life-threatening syndrome of new technology is simply "failing to design for the
consumer. Too many companies are creating technology for technology sake. They
throw technology over the wall without considering what the customer really
wants," he told EBN
Moorhead's autopsy of technological corpses uncovers what new innovations might
do to avoid premature infant death syndrome.
1. Make it simple for consumers. Technology is complex enough without confusing
customers further with technical jargon and buzz-word labels that only the
Why, the AMD official asked, are there three separate names for the same
wireless home networking technology -- IEEE 1394, or Firewire, or i.Link? "And
WiFi may sound cool to technocrats, but has nothing to do with the benefit to
the consumer. It could limit the ability of this technology to become
mainstream," he added.
2. Make it relevant to consumers. "Too often companies throw out technology
and see if it sticks. They're marketing boxes, not solutions."
variant of ad man Elmo Wheeler's adage to "sell the sizzle, not the
steak," Moorhead said too many digital marketers fail to convince the
public of what technology will do for them. "Why do 40% of U.S. households
still not own a PC? It's because we've failed to make the PC relevant to
3. Make it useable for an extended time. Too often products become unuseable,
not because of their failure, but from rapid changes in the infrastructure
and services supporting them, he said. Old systems can't run on radical
new software. Service providers change protocols to obsolete older
Moorhead would like a model closer to auto transportation. "You
can drive very old cars because even new highways can accommodate them."
4. Make it secure and trustworthy. Increasingly new product innovations and
services require inputs of very private data of users in order to operate.
Technologists forget that mainstream customers may not be comfortable
giving out this sensitive information, Moorhead asserted.
The AMD official's treatise will get immediate testing from the acres of new
gadgets and high tech products overflowing the Las Vegas Convention Center
halls. The market will determine whether a killer-app is embedded in any one
of them, or whether they, too, are destined for the electronic graveyard.
A personal note: After writing more than 1650 columns over 33 years, I am cutting back to a monthly schedule of the Closer Look commentary. This column will appear on the
EBN Online web site the first of each month. Having reached my Biblical
allotment of three score and ten years, I hope to take advantage of the
privileges that come with seniority. This will also give me more time for news
story writing, coping with the blinding pace of technology and international
developments in the electronics world.