Apple email hints at multi-user account feature for iPad

Apple's iPad has always been a one-user device, but that might not last forever. A reply to an Apple developer hinted that the company is cooking up a solution for multiple users using the same tablet.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Speculation rose that Apple's iPad could one day get support for multiple user accounts, if an email purportedly sent to a developer from Apple's Worldwide Developer Relations group is to be believed.

Apple Insider on Monday posted a reply that an unnamed developer received from Apple after requesting that the company add support for multiple user accounts on the iPad.

"After further investigation, it has been determined that this is a known issue, which is currently being investigated by engineering," the reply said.

That reply doesn't go so far as to say that such a feature is definitely coming, but it comes at a curious time. Apple is a few weeks away from taking the wraps off "the future of iOS" at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WDC). The show is expected to bring the introduction of iOS 6, the release of which will likely coincide with Apple's next iPhone later this year.

Unlike Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch, the iPad has been pitched as a device that is more communal, yet, like those other devices, it remains tied to a single user account. But that wasn't Apple's original plan, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal that ran just a few days ahead of the first iPad's unveiling.

Citing sources, the Journal said that Apple put "significant resources" into making the iPad "intuitive to share", going so far as to use a built-in camera to identify the person using it. What happened instead was the first-generation model shipping without a camera, and for the next two generations to continue on the single-user model. Some app makers responded by adding support for multiple users, but it's not the standard.

Also worth mentioning is one major hurdle for turning the iPad into a device that works for multiple users: storage. The iPad has only ever sold in three storage configurations (16GB, 32GB and 64GB), and by adding a Retina display on the third-generation model, some (but not all) applications have ballooned in size. Apple has also done things like increase the quality, and thus the size, of video content in iTunes. Add in multiple users with their own apps and content, and problems could arise — all things that could require workarounds before such a feature arrives.

However, Instapaper developer Marco Arment later rained on the rumour parade, noting that the "known issue" mention is Apple's standard go-to response. "It's a form letter. It means nothing, except that he was not the first person to make that suggestion," he said


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BillWindows posted a comment   

What they should do is add a USB drive and a file system, and or make it able to communicate with a NAS, problem solved. Goodbye walled garden.


Im Batman posted a comment   

That would be a great addition to the device/OS.
Great to see a OSX feature being pulled across to iOS... lately it has seemed one way traffic of iOS features being mashed into OSX

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