I had an invigorating and thought-provoking chat with my good friend Oliver Roup today. We agreed that the Apple iPad is going to be an unbelievable success. I’ve thought from day one that it would be huge, but I think it will be bigger than huge. Before the end of the summer, millions of people will own one. Content producers, looking for a way to make money, will flock to it. A virtuous circle will be created. More users. More content. More users. More content.
And so, while killing Flash with one hand, Apple may put a dent in the Open Web with the other. Because if the content producers suddenly have, at their disposal (as Oliver put it) the ultimate platform with identity, micro-payments, a gorgeous interface, and automatic DRM, used by millions of people, why would they continue to funnel millions into their open-web efforts?
Put it all together, and we may begin to see the Great Content Lockdown of 2010. The best, most usable way to read online content will be via iPad apps. Copy-and-paste? Probably disabled. Share via Google Buzz? Only if Google pays to be featured in the “Wall Street Journal app.” In other words, the Web as a platform goes away: there is one client for a given type of content, and it behaves only in the way the producer of this content expects it to. Mashups? Unexpected, serendipitous combinations of features and data? Not likely.
Steve Jobs said the iPad is the most important thing he’s ever done. I think that’s true. I’m just not sure it’s the best thing he’s ever done.