The iPad as a new "walled garden" of content

John Battelle's Searchblog has an interesting post up about whether or not the iPad can be categorized as a disappointment. He begins with a mea culpa; while he predicted earlier this year that the iPad would more or less fail, the sales figures from earlier this week have proven him wrong. However, he says that the question then turns to whether the iPad will be a disappoint in its larger goal: to revolutionize computing and use the App Store model as a replacement for the usual download-and-install app method that we currently use on desktops.

Battelle says that the iPad is doing what AOL (disclaimer: TUAW is part of Weblogs, Inc., a division of AOL) did back in the early days of the Web: distilling it into an easily consumable form. Just like AOL created a portal for Web browsing, the iPad creates a portal for content consumption, all through Apple's App Store (and through Apple's "approved" Web, depending on whether you think Flash's approval is a bug or a feature).

Battelle also says that Apple's portal comes with the same issues that AOL's portal did; AOL, he says (and I presume he means the old AOL, not the one paying me to write this), was killed by the link, and the iPad, as he sees it, will eventually be killed by whatever links apps together. AOL was a "walled garden" of their content, and as long as Apple maintains its grip on the App Store, it's that same garden; each app works within its own flower pot, almost completely independent of the others.

It's an interesting idea, though not quite one that I necessarily agree with. Apple still has a chance to see the light, and they're working on it; iPhone OS 4.0 will bring more ways than ever for apps to talk to and share with each other, and Battelle himself has suggested ways that Apple could implement search and communication across apps.

Battelle's point stands anyway. If Apple doesn't let apps and users communicate with each other outside of the limited environment of the App Store, then Android or another competitor will, and Jobs' company will, once again, be fighting for a (very profitable) slice of the market share.