We are all in search of the next killer apps. Embedded.com has this view from Ralph Cavin, vice president of research operations at the Semiconductor Research Corp.
Cavin thinks it includes thinking machines and devices that would replace human assistants. He defined a killer app as something that significantly expanded a desired capability for a large number of people, and was based on existing technology. As examples he cited the VisiCalc spreadsheet program, the cell phone and the World Wide Web.
Among his scenarios were proactive computers that could anticipate their user’s needs rather than simply responding to commands; machines that could fill some of the roles of a human assistant, for which Cavin cited the Sony SDR 4X robot as an extreme example; and a number of applications at the intersection of microelectronics, nanotechnology and medicine. He also suggested holographic virtual meetings and the possible move to a hydrogen-based energy economy as potential areas.
Looking across this set of possibilities, Cavin reached some generalizations about what all this means for engineers. First, he pointed out that nearly all the areas listed represent the intersection of existing electronics with some other, quite different technology. Hence, he concluded, the engineers who will be in on the next big thing will be multidisciplinary, not purely electronics specialists.
I think of the next killer apps as those that can enable the next set of computing markets – for the coming 500 million users in emerging markets like India and China. These will be a collection of technologies that can bring down the cost of computing to a fraction of what it is today. Think USD 100 computers, open-source software, server-centric computing and WiFi – which could help bring down the cost of computing and communications to as little as USD 10 per month.
On the software front, I think RSS and what it can enable via events (more than just news) delivery to the desktop on a digital dashboard can be a big driver for enabling a “real-time” and “two-way” interface.