The iPad needs user accounts

| Friday, May 21st, 2010

It didn’t take me long to realize that the iPad is a multi-user device, and that Apple needs to take this into account and provide people with the ability to use multiple accounts.

The iPad’s a tweener device. It’s not small enough to replace an iPhone, much like the Touch, and it’s certainly not powerful enough to replace a laptop for some, but it’s the perfect coffee table device.

I have a hard time seeing a family pick up more than one iPad as it stands, but I can certainly see the iPad kicking around kitchen tables, and coffee tables in most homes. This is where the problem begins, and Apple certainly needs to take this into account–more than one user is problematic for most people.

If dad has his work email set up on the device, and mom and the kids enjoy playing a couple of games on it, and the teenager likes it for watching videos and using Facebook, should they all have access to Dad’s email? What if they all want to use the mail client? See the problem? The iPad is more computer than iPod, and it’ll do Apple some good to think about it in these terms.

After spending more than a week with the device, I can see how it would fit naturally into a families eco-system, but I’d be reluctant to leave the device laying around the house without some form of user account. I don’t have kids, and I don’t have teens kicking around, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that a small family could be face with some privacy problems on the device.

Would you want your kids accessing your Twitter account, or Facebook account, how about financial information with applications like Cha-Ching?

The iPod Touch is cheap enough to consider it for a gift for some families, but the iPad is starting to slide out of the traditional families price range as a gift. If Apple get the most people using iPads as possible, they’re going to have to think of a way to make it a little more secure in a multi-user environment. As it is, small and medium businesses might not be comfortable with the level of security the devices currently provides.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the iPad is the next major hurdle in the technology world, and I believe that Apple’s done a great job as getting us there before anyone else. The iPad has changed the way I’ve been using my laptop, and it’s certainly let me re-gain some of my time—it’s just that effective. If you want to do something, you can do it distraction free. No text messages to sidetrack you from answering email, and no twitter to interrupt you while you’re checking RSS feeds. It eliminates sidetracks, and helps you get things done, but if a family wants to use it, you’re limited to having to sign out and back in all the time for applications, or even worse, sharing the mail app with multiple accounts.

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