The Killers!

By  |  Monday, December 14, 2009 at 2:59 pm

In this blog post (which I learned of via John Gruber), Darby Lines says that the tech media is unnaturally obsessed with killers–products which are supposed to come along and topple an iPhone, a Google, or another massively popular product through sheer force of quality, marketing, strongarm tactics, or some combination thereof.

He’s right that the whole idea is sort of pointless. As I wrote back in this piece, killers are exceedingly rare–and it seems like even the smartest tech watchers aren’t very good at identifying them until the killing is largely done.

But Lines’ piece got me wondering: Just which products have we fixated on the notion of some other new product killing most often? I decided to try to rank them based on Googleosity: The frequency with which terms such as “iPhone Killer,” “Twitter Killer,” and “Facebook Killer” show up in the Google index.

This is an exceptionally crude experiment–all of the results include some pages (lots of them, actually) that have nothing to do with product-killing. And some terms, such as Xbox Killer and Craiglist Killer pull up so many items about violent death that it’s pointless to include them at all.

But hey, let’s try this again, for the first 35 gadgets, services, and software products that came to my mind.

  1. iPhone Killer: 732,000
  2. Kindle Killer: 272,000
  3. iPod Killer: 118,000
  4. Google Killer: 99,300
  5. Twitter Killer: 75,300
  6. Yahoo Killer: 65,600
  7. Facebook Killer: 55,900
  8. Wii Killer: 50,200
  9. Firefox Killer: 49,900
  10. Windows Killer: 37,800
  11. PS2 Killer: 28,200
  12. Hotmail Killer: 19,900
  13. BlackBerry Killer: 19,500
  14. eBay Killer: 18.400
  15. Microsoft Word Killer: 16,100
  16. MacBook Killer: 14,600
  17. Linux Killer: 13,500
  18. PowerPoint Killer: 12,600
  19. TiVo Killer: 11,300
  20. MSN Killer: 10,700
  21. Excel Killer: 5,770
  22. AOL Killer: 5,410
  23. RAZR Killer: 5,120
  24. Friendster Killer: 4,480
  25. Gmail Killer: 1,480
  26. Netscape Killer: 1,360
  27. AltaVista Killer: 1,170
  28. Walkman Killer: 1,070
  29. Mac Killer: 944
  30. Polaroid Killer: 356
  31. WordPerfect Killer: 133
  32. IBM PC Killer: 9
  33. CompuServe Killer: 4
  34. StarTac Killer: 2
  35. Victrola Killer: 0

Like I say, this is a very imprecise exercise, but it does seem that the world has spent more time fixated on would-be iPhone killers than those with murderous intentions against any other tech product. I also get the sense that the whole concept of product killers is largely one of recent times. Maybe it’s a fad–I kind of hope so…

 
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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Mark Prestash Says:

    I could not agree with you more Harry. I’m so tired of reading headlines calling this phone and that phone an iPhone killer before the phone even comes out! It’s fair to compare known features of an existing device with the expected “features” of a new device for comparison’s sake, but PLEASE wait to review the darn thing before you say it’s a killer.

  2. johnasp Says:

    Thanks for pointing out what a lot of people have been thinking, at least myself. Victorola killer…your killing me…

  3. Harry Says:

    Yes, but a “killer” makes for a sensational story. Consider the following that are true in most cases

    1. It provokes an emotional response. These are products epople love or hate, and people would be interested if it happens.

    2. It generates interest in the product it talks about. If it can be a “killer” it must be pretty good.

    3. If it happens it will be a seminal event. These always make interesting reading.

    4. In the off chance it really DOES happen the author can claim that he/she spotted it first (never mind the 500 similar articles that were completely off).

    So there is really no downside to writing these articles. They attract readers as well as writers. It’s no wonder there are so many of them.

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