I’ve seen a number of people talking recently about how they feel that the iPad really needs user accounts. Most recently, our friend Joshua Schnell did a good post on this subject at his Macgasm site. Here are a couple quick excerpts from Joshua’s post:
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.
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.
The article goes on to talk about issues with access to a parent’s email account on the iPad, or to their Twitter or Facebook accounts, or potentially even financial information via finance-oriented apps.
I’m Not Worried
Although I can see how there could be issues of this type for many families, my initial gut reaction is that I don’t want to see anything that detracts from the dead-simple, friendly interface of the iPad. The whole idea of having separate user accounts and logging in and out is instantly unappealing to me.
I also don’t feel a great need for privacy or extra security on the iPad so far. I have a very young daughter (7) who enjoys reading eBooks together and playing a few games with me on the iPad, but she doesn’t ever spend much time using the device on her own. My wife will join in with some of the game with us, but again doesn’t spend time using the device on her own.
The above is partly due to the fact that they each have their own devices and distractions to keep them busy and entertained, and also because I’m quite a controlling iPad owner. The iPad was a big expense for me (the 64GB WiFi model) and it is an essential tool for me – so I am probably more than a little over-protective with it.
I guess you could say my primary ‘security’ concerns with the iPad are related to preventing it from being dropped, having liquid spilled on it, and similar. I’m honestly not worried about anyone in the house seeing my email or Twitter accounts, or latest browsing history. My daughter tends to shoulder-surf at everything I’m doing on the web and in Twitter and similar on my Mac anyway – so no secrets from her, and I don’t keep any financial info in any iPhone or iPad apps (and don’t visit banking sites on them either).
But I May Well Be in then Minority on This …
The more I think about this though, the more I think I may be the exception rather than the rule on some of this. I can easily see that others might well have sensitive financial information held in apps or accessible via a website, or email accounts and other areas that need a higher degree of privacy.
I wouldn’t object to seeing user accounts (or some similar approach) being an available option within Settings – though I’d rather not see it imposed across the board (and can’t imagine Apple going that way with it either).
A Partial Solution?
In the meantime, I am aware of one iPad app that goes a ways towards addressing at least some of these issues. The mySlate app – from my friend and colleague here, Brandon Steili – looks like a nice option if you are one of those who are pining for user accounts on the iPad.
Here’s a little Intro to the app and some of its features, straight from Brandon:
mySlate is the first app designed to take your iPad from a single user device to one you can share with the whole family, and still keep your web browsing, photos and videos private!
mySlate is designed with privacy in mind. Everything is kept separate from one user to the next – bookmarks, web cookies, images and videos.
** Unlimited user accounts
** FTP Server for photo and video uploads – separate access per user so nobody sees your files and you don’t see theirs
** Photos – Slideshow and random slideshow
** Videos – Plays pretty much everything your iPad can play
** Web – Tabbed Browsing, Image Saving, Bookmark Folders, email links, open in Safari
** Switch users without leaving the app, change your password whenever you want to.
You can find mySlate in the App Store now, priced at $2.99.
What Do You Think?
Does the iPad need user accounts? Are you concerned about leaving your iPad on the coffee table at home?