Curse You iPad and Your Lack of Multi-user Support

The iPad pisses me off. It’s such an amazing device, and it does just about everything I could wish for from such a revolution in computing. It always sounds contrived to say that the iPad has changed things but it really has! (Ooooh, that sounded contrived). My laptop rarely comes out of an evening anymore - most of my casual browsing, mail checking, tweeting, etc is done on the iPad. My wife is able to use it to make Skype calls, do the grocery shopping, keep an eye on Facebook.

But there is one area where the iPad just doesn’t cut it - as a multi-user device. In this article Brian Shall extolls the virtues of the iPad as a communal, collaborative device. I say “to hell with that.”

Some might say1 that I’m a bit funny about sharing my stuff. I’m a private individual - despite having nothing to hide I’m still a little edgy about somebody else using my OS X login. So a single-user device like the iPad really winds me up. As I said, I’ve got nothing to hide. It’s the little things like the unread items badge on the Mail app. Only being able to sync one set of bookmarks from MobileMe. Sharing a Google search history because my wife is permanently signed into Gmail. Only one of us being able to use the excellent Reeder for iPad.

Some apps do work for multiple accounts - the Twitter app is very handy in this respect. But it shouldn’t really fall onto the app developers to do this. One of the beauties of iOS apps is that they are completely sandboxed - each app has it’s own space to play about in, and it does not put any of its settings or documents outside of it’s space. Why then can’t Apple implement multi-user support. The sandbox for each app could contain a sub-directory for each user of the device.

Sure there’s going to be a bit of an overhead in managing multiple users, but it’s hardly the end of the world. And it could be optional - allow people to enable multi-user support only if they feel that they need it.

I’m sure Apple would rather that everyone in the family spent the £429/$499 to get a device each but that’s not going to happen. So until they bring the price down dramatically, or they implement multi-user support, it’s never going to be the true family device that it could be.

  1. Or to be precise - “my wife would say”.