Apple has been trying to position the iPad as a productivity machine for years and it’s working. With iPadOS, accessories like the Magic Keyboard, and support for desktop navigation, the iPad has become a viable replacement for a laptop, and I currently use an iPad Pro instead of a laptop. But an important piece of this puzzle is missing: multi-user support.
I get it. Apple wants everyone who wants to use an iPad to buy theirs. But the fact is, not everyone wants, or can afford, to have multiple iPads in their home. But these folks should still be able to get the great tablet experience that the iPad offers.
What is a computer?
If apple Really you want users to adopt the iPad as a computer, so adding multi-user support to the iPad is not only useful, it is necessary. That is true now more than ever. 2020 was the year of remote learning and working, and that means we are all dependent on our mobile devices. Desktops, laptops, and tablets have a double (or triple) function for multitasking and multiple people. This is likely to continue regardless of the duration of the pandemic, with many expecting remote working to continue to grow in popularity.
Not that the concept of multi-user support is new to Apple. The company offers multi-user support on Apple TV (a similarly locked platform), and of course on Mac. It even offers multi-user support on iPad for managed education users and business users, syncing information through iCloud in a way that allows users to simply grab any iPad from a stack of devices and get to work. There are no technical limitations for Apple to implement multi-user support; the company is making the decision not to.
One could argue that, in the end, enabling multiple users on the iPad could bring in more money for Apple, considering how long people keep their iPads. It may be easier to justify the purchase of a new iPad if, in theory, multiple people can use it. And if different users could access their accounts on a single iPad, they are more likely to subscribe to services like Apple TV +, Apple Fitness +, and iCloud, which work very well on iPad.
People are already sharing iPads, whether Apple wants it or not.
Multi-user is better for privacy
Apple has long been touted as the champion of user privacy, but the fact is that forcing users to share iPads without multi-user support works against that claim. People are already sharing iPads, whether Apple wants it or not, and that requires trying to tiptoe and not snoop on the primary user’s personal data.
Sure, prioritizing privacy probably applies more to the outside world than your family’s, but that’s not really relevant here, if Apple wants to empower users to take control of their own privacy, that includes since nobody plus. Actually, someone in your house is much more likely to stumble upon your unlocked iPad than a stranger in a coffee shop or airport.
IPad is not a personal device
Apple may be working to bring multi-user support to the iPad as we speak. The company has applied for a patent that would use the Secure Enclave on the iPad chip to securely separate the data of different users.
It’s a mess, and it’s a mess that Apple could and should fix.
The iPad just makes sense as a sharing device. Parents share their iPads with kids, and Apple has implemented pretty good controls for that use case. But others share iPads too. I share my iPad with my girlfriend and vice versa. People often lend their iPad to an older parent or grandparent. And little siblings should be able to share iPads anyway.
Currently, sharing an iPad means sharing data. Recommendations get confused on Apple TV. Unwanted applications are downloaded. It’s a mess, and it’s a mess that Apple could and should fix.