At WWDC, Apple announced that they would finally be adding multi-user support to one of their mobile operating systems. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the one most of us have been asking for. The first round goes to the tvOS and the Apple TV, which will now have separate recommendations and favorites for different users. An honorary mention also goes to the HomePod, which will now be able to recognize voice commands from multiple users and respond with information from their iCloud account.
While many iPad users like myself have been hoping to see some kind of separate user account system implemented on the iPad for years now, there is still nothing available outside of the education market. Unfortunately, based on the WWDC Keynote and interviews since then with Apple executives, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it, either. If multi-user support comes to iPadOS, it will be in iOS 14 or later.
So why would Apple start with two of their less successful “mobile OS” products? There are actually a couple of good reasons for this. First of all, Apple is trying hard to gain a foothold in both the video streaming and intelligent assistant markets. Multi-user support is already a part of competing service offerings in both industries and has been for a while. These additions by Apple are catch-up moves for both the Apple TV and tvOS and the HomePod in markets where they are already playing catch-up.
Secondly. both the Apple TV and HomePod offer Apple opportunities to work on multi-user support before bringing it over to their more popular and widely available mobile OSs, iOS and iPadOS. I am making an assumption here, but if Apple is planning on rolling this feature out across their mobile lineup, a first step with a little less exposure makes a lot of sense.
This also fits Apple’s MO of gradual feature rollouts. An example would be Apple initially trying out Dark Mode as an Accessibility feature before rolling it out across iOS and iPadOS. We can see another possible example in Apple’s new Accessibility implementation of mouse support on iPadOS.
We have seen small beginnings for Apple features that grow into big and very useful features. Hopefully that will prove to be the case with Apple’s new multi-user support for Apple TV and HomePod. Those of us with families would really appreciate the ability to share an iPad but keep a degree of both customization and privacy.