Apple is on a roll. Everything is selling well. iPhone, Mac, Apple TV, Watch, and, uh, uh, iPad? No. The iPad, though a big multi-billion dollar business, is on the wane as many customers have developed a case of Apple fatigue, a malady which causes people not to buy everything Apple manufactures.
The product getting the boot from the daily routine is the iPad, now suffering from sales losses for a couple of years. One reason for the iPad’s woes might be because Apple made the device too good. iPads last and last and even new models don’t provide an incentive to upgrade because the use case for an older iPad is about the same as for a brand new iPad.
What is Apple doing to counter this growing problem? First, it introduced the iPad Pro and Pencil, which, when combined with the Smart Keyboard, makes an iPad Pro cost more than a MacBook Air, and almost as much as a new MacBook.
Second, Apple is about to introduce iOS 9.3, already out in beta, with a crazy new feature that could extend the iPad’s life cycle even more. It’s called multiuser mode in the Shared iPad, a way for schools to allow iPads to be shared in much the same way that Macs and PCs can have multiple user accounts.
Multiuser support on an iPad is a first, and at first glance, it appears to work much like the multiuser feature on a Mac or PC, which retains each user’s data separately. Obviously, this is good for schools who require that devices be setup in such a way that multiple students can use a single device. Previously, that wasn’t easy to accomplish on an iPad in a school.
What if multiuser Shared iPad were available for every iPad owner starting with iOS 9 (due out later this year)?
That means a single iPad at home, preferably one with plenty of extra storage (that 16GB model will be even more anemic with three or four users on it) can be used by the entire family for email, messages, photos, browsing, games, etc, where each user gets their own user account, so personal information and files are kept separate from other users.
That’s an idea whose time has come, but it’s easy to see why Apple didn’t provide multiuser support in the first place (it could have; iOS is based upon OS X which is based upon various flavors of Unix, which, by nature, is multiuser; your Mac already is). Multiuser Shared iPad support means Apple would sell fewer iPads. Instead of buying four iPads for a family (one for dad, one for mom, one each for the kids), a family could buy one or two and share; one for adults, one for the children.
Yes, that arrangement would likely set off a few arguments over usage, but it would also save $1,000 to $2,000 depending upon family size and iPad models.
Let’s go a few steps in another direction. Multiuser Shared iPad support for businesses. PCs and Macs already get used as multiuser devices in the enterprise, so having such support for an iPad is a no-brainer. Companies will save money by setting up iPads to be shared between users, and with more personal data stored on the cloud, using any iPad from a company’s inventory still gets a user full access to their data and specific applications.
Multiuser support for iPad is an idea whose time has come and gone but come around again, but is it too late? Will such capability help sell more iPads? I don’t know, but we’re still trying to find out the iPad’s life cycle so if multiuser support were limited to, say, 64GB or 128GB models, we might see some ongoing upgrades.