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'Shared iPad' in Apple's iOS 9.3 update is a big deal

Ryan Faas | Jan. 15, 2016
Along with Night Shift mode and CarPlay enhancements, the upgrade adds useful features to mobile OS.

That implies that user data is cached on a shared iPad, but that the data could also be downloaded if a student needs a device other than the one he or she has been using. Given the focus on Managed Apple IDs, the implication is that user data is linked to a specific Apple ID created and managed by the school.

Useful at home, too

Shared iPad will be a major advance for schools, because it helps make iPad use a major part of the classroom experience without requiring a massive investment -- and it will be a boon to education IT and teachers. But schools aren't the only environment where iOS devices are shared.

ios9.3 notes
Apple Notes can be secured in iOS 9.3.

Many families share one or more iPads (and even iPhones, in some cases). At home, an iPad becomes a multi-user device, albeit with limitations. As things stand now, progress in games, ebooks, education apps and so on isn't delineated between siblings or parents. Access to email, social media, or messaging accounts isn't separated. Access to content isn't partitioned based on user, genre, or age appropriateness. Device and app settings are one-size/user-fits all. A single Apple ID is used across the board for purchases (a second may be used for iCloud features, but again it's just one ID).

For families on a budget, buying multiple iPads isn't always an option. BUt sharing a single iPad (or even a couple) isn't always ideal for these reasons. Expanding this ability from the classroom to the living room is a natural extension. So is taking the Managed Apple ID concept from teacher and school administrators and adapting it for parents.

Apple isn't there yet, but it's hard not to see where the company is heading.

It's also worth noting that this functionality already exists across most mobile a desktop platforms. Android, Windows and Windows Phone have offered multi-user capabilities in one form or another for some time. Apple has, of course, offered this in OS X since it debuted 15 years ago, along with a range of parental control options, all of which could be adapted for iOS. Apple could even take OS X's Guest User feature and extend that to iOS as well.

The big step: Shared iPad in the enterprise

It's hard not to see Shared iPad as enterprise-worthy. Despite the BYOD trend for mobile devices at work -- and the related assumption that devices will be used by a single employee regardless of ownership -- there are a variety of contexts in which a device could be shared. Retail, customer service, and hospitality are prime examples, though they can often work in a kiosk mode where personalization isn’t needed. Other environments like healthcare, sales, field service, architecture/engineering and design are areas where multiple professionals might work with a single pool of devices, but where user-specific apps, settings or content is necessary for effective use.


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