Ben Summers’ blog

Multiple users and the iPad

I promised myself I wouldn’t write a blog post about the iPad. But I’ve been thinking about who would use it, and something’s been puzzling me.

How do multiple users share an iPad?

The iPhone is personal. Phoning your number makes it ring. You carry it around everywhere. You certainly wouldn’t lend it to someone. (I don’t let anyone else even touch my iPhone.)

The iPad is not an iPhone

While the iPad uses the same operating system as the iPhone, I think it’s been designed with very different uses in mind. The intended users aren’t technical people like me, they’re non-technical people like our parents. It’s a device for someone who just wants to read their email, browse the web, look at their photos, and maybe watch a little bit of video.

I can’t see an iPad being used by just one person. It seems like a device which belongs to a home, not a person, and is used by all the occupants.

But because it’s derived from the iPhone, only one person can use it. It contains just one person’s email, one person’s media, one person’s web browsing history – and much of that is private.

Does Apple really think that you’re going to buy multiple iPads for the home? Perhaps they could have lots of different colours, like the iPod nano, so you can recognise which one is yours?

It’s just Version 1.0

When it was released, the iPhone was very much a version one device. What it did was polished and worked really well, but it lacked features it “obviously” needed. The first iPad, similarly, is very much a version one device. We can expect more features to appear in future versions of the OS, and the first iPads to get software upgrades.

Multiple users would require significant architectural changes, so it’s not something that Apple could realistically have implemented within their tight timescales. The OS would need a concept of the current user, and iTunes would need to be able to sync multiple profiles. And that’s just before you work out how to cleanly share media between people.

I’m quite intrigued by the iPad. It’ll be fascinating to see how it’s used in real life, and how the product evolves over the next few years. But I have a prediction: The next version of the iPad OS will support multiple users.



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Hello, I’m Ben.

I’m the Technical Director of Haplo Services, an open source platform for information management.


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