It’s unusual for a hit computer not to have a killer app driving demand, says David Needle at TabTimes. The Apple II didn’t kickstart the personal computer revolution till VisiCalc, the first electronic spreadsheet, came along. Likewise, Lotus 1-2-3 was the killer app for the IBM PC.

Email unquestionably made BlackBerry smart phones a staple of business and easy-to-use mobile browsing helped the iPhone essentially create a new industry.

One could even argue that another type of killer app vaulted the iPhone’s success even higher, the App Store, the wildly popular online storefront for acquiring mobile apps.

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So what’s the killer app that’s driving millions of iPad sales? That is a hard question to answer. It might be easier to say the killer app for an e-reader is “reading.”

But we might be missing the point here. Maybe it is not the “app” but the “use mode” or “killer feature” that is important.

Some of us are fond of noting that “the killer app” for any tablet device is “content consumption.” But maybe that’s more properly a “killer use case” than a “killer app.”

What was the “killer feature” or “killer use case” for mobile phones? It was the ability to talk, wherever you were. What is the killer feature or use case for a smart phone? It might be the ability to use the web, or apps, where you are.

The point is that, for any mobile device, the notion of “killer app” might be misplaced. It might be that it is the use case that provides the value, not a new app.

Some might well argue that entertainment video will emerge as the killer app for tablet devices. Others might say, more broadly, that it is content consumption which uniquely defines a tablet experience, and makes the device different from a PC.

We have had “mobile” PCs for some time. We now have ultra-mobile PCs called smart phones. Tablets are “mobile” devices, but tend to be used when people are stationary–sitting on a couch, for example.

Where we traditionally have defined television viewing as a “lean back” experience, and use of a PC as a “lean forward” experience, tablets are a bit of a blend. They are used in a lean back setting (couch, frequently), but with high interaction, as frequently is true of a PC experience. Again, it is the use case, not the apps, which possibly are key.

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