Your Mac has it already built-in, so why doesn’t Apple add good old fashioned multi-user support to the iPad? Or, Apple TV?
The advantages for customers of a platform that features multi-user support are obvious. Multiple people can use the same device and keep their email, browser history and bookmarks, photos and movies, and applications preferences separate from other users.
The disadvantages for manufacturers of a platform with multi-user support are obvious, too. Apple, for example, is a hardware manufacturer. Multi-user support in an iPad means many family members can use the same iPad. In such a scenario, Apple wouldn’t sell as much hardware.
What about the Mac?
Multi-user support is a hallmark of Unix-based systems, including Linux, and macOS Sierra’s roots as Mac OS X back at the turn of the century. It’s still there. A single Mac can be shared by multiple users and each gets access to the installed applications, but their user preferences, settings, and files remains segregated from other users.
Interestingly, even though multi-user support has been a useful feature on the Mac in the 21st century, I know of very few Mac users who implement it other than as a safety option (Administrator account and a user account) or as a Guest account. If it’s not all that popular, why couldn’t Apple put multi-user support in the iPad? After all, iOS is based on macOS (and what was OS X) so implementation would be trivial.
Apple is a hardware company. The vast majority of the company’s revenue and profits come from selling hardware devices. The iPad, though still selling at twice the volume of the Mac, has seen dwindling sales for a number of years, so it’s unlikely that Apple has any desire to implement a simple software option that could diminish sales further.
What is Multi-user? There is a definition, though it may vary some by platform.
Multi-user software is software that allows access by multiple users of a computer. Time-sharing systems are multi-user systems… Some multi-user operating systems such as Windows versions from the Windows NT family support simultaneous access by multiple users (for example, via Remote Desktop Connection) as well as the ability for a user to disconnect from a local session while leaving processes running (doing work on their behalf) while another user logs into and uses the system. The operating system provides isolation of each user’s processes from other users, while enabling them to execute concurrently
What we do not see from Apple is another option called the thin client. It’s doable on a Mac, but somewhat on the geeky side. Think of a single Mac whereby multiple users could open their accounts and run Mac applications from different devices, including an iPad.
A thin client is a lightweight computer that is purpose-built for remoting into a server (typically cloud or desktop virtualization environments). It depends heavily on another computer (its server) to fulfill its computational roles. This is different from a conventional desktop PC (fat client), which is a computer designed to take on these roles by itself. The specific roles assumed by the server may vary, from hosting a shared set of virtualized applications, a shared desktop stack or virtual desktop, to data processing and file storage on the client’s or user’s behalf.
Thin clients are like terminals where many users can access different files and applications at the same time.
I’m not expecting Apple to launch a line Mac Pad devices, essentially a thin Mac which could log into a Mac server and run applications and allow users to access their files on a remote device, but there is little to prevent Apple from putting multi-user support into an iPad.
Is there a problem with that strategy? Yes. Fewer iPads would be sold if a family of four could use just one (at a time). With cloud access becoming the norm, and with internet speed available at well more than 10BASE-T speeds already, maybe the time has arrived for Apple to fully rethink how we use computers these days.
Nah. Won’t happen. Apple makes money by selling hardware so why sell hardware and configure it in such a way as to reduce the cost per user?