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iPad: Desperately Seeking Guest Mode

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
May 10, 2012 5:00 AM PT

After you get over the worry that kids or grandmothers are going to drop your iPad and then accidentally trod on it or stab it with the leg of a walker, other problems quickly arise: For instance, what sort of iMessage or Reminder is going to pop up from your crass buddy and mortify your grandma? Which email from the friend who won't stop sending the joke emails is going show up in front of a kid?

What happens when a friend or family member wants to check out the iPad or listen to music or watch a movie or surf the Web ... and then hours later start poking around? How much chaos can they create with some curious tapping and swiping?

iPad: Desperately Seeking Guest Mode

Might they accidentally accept a calendar invite signing up me for a meeting that I do not -- or cannot -- attend?

My iPad 2 is meant for me. I don't really want anyone messing it up. There are things I'm writing, to-do lists, reminders, and while I DO NOT have any Anthony Weiner-style self-portraits to worry about, I'd prefer that family photos not get emailed out to business contacts.

Kid Rule #1: If They Can Get Into It, They Will

If you know anything about kids, for the most part they will happily focus on squashing bugs and adding up numbers in various apps made for children. But inevitably their curiosity will lead them down other paths, and suddenly they are connecting to accounts or, depending on the age, systematically going down a list of your business emails, swiping and deleting, swiping and deleting. It's almost like a game!

That is, until you realize that your email account is nicely tied into your company's email server and those messages may be deleted ... or worse, totally out of your consciousness because you never read them and now you don't know they even existed.

Depending on the email, this could lead to a career-changing U-turn.

The iPad Needs a Guest User Mode

The easy answer to this problem -- and all the app-related issues that could also arise -- is an instant-on guest user mode. You could lock down some apps so they wouldn't launch, limit users to seeing only a certain set of apps, or you could lock down various services. There are dozens and dozens of ways you could implement and create a guest user mode, or "safe" mode, and I don't really care how it's done. But I do know that we need it. Yesterday, in fact.

The iPad is a very sharable device. It's easy to hand over, easy for someone to touch and use and enjoy. But it's increasingly used for sensitive information, contextual information, private information, in addition to watching "Dora the Explorer" on road trips.

It's a magical device, clearly, that spans every sort of user, and that's why we could use some basic controls.

Apple Just Wants Us to Buy More iPads!

I can see where Apple considered multi-user support, and then realized that it was too complicated to deliver ... and by that I mean it was a layer of complexity that would slow sales and the eager use of the iPad. That makes sense.

But what if Apple knows how to do it but simply puts it on the back burner to simmer because they know keeping it off iPads will lead to more iPad sales? Dads will only put up with their children happily tapping the little Xs to delete one jiggling app after another for so long before they buy an iPad for the kids. Or find out that their action crime drama movie was deleted to free up space for "Toy Story 3."

It's all a good business plan, at least until enough people start thinking things like, "Damn it, Apple is a $100 billion company ... how in the heck can this be any sort of engineering or programming hurdle?"

It's not. If Apple wanted us to have a guest mode or safe mode or multi-user support right now, we'd have it on our iPads. Seriously. If Apple can deliver Siri, surely multi-user support is far less of a challenge.

'Known Issue, Being Investigated'

As it turns out, according to a developer who submitted a suggestion requesting multi-user support for the iPad, Apple is well aware of the desire. Rumor site AppleInsider published Apple's response to the (anonymous) developer, so now it's clear that multi-user support is a known issue that is being investigated by Apple's engineers.


And now the real waiting begins ...

MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at

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What should be done about UFOs?
World governments should cooperate to address a potential planetary threat.
The DoD should investigate -- they could signal a hostile nation's tech advances.
The government should reveal what it already knows.
The government probably has good reasons for secrecy and should be trusted on this.
Wealthy corporate space-age visionaries should take the lead.
Nothing. Studying UFOs is a waste of resources.
Keep the stories coming. People love conspiracy theories, and it's fun to speculate.