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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.

This need for personalization is even more apparent when using the iPad Pro. One of the chief criticisms about Apple's oversized tablet is that its hardware potential is held back by the limitations of iOS, an issue I predicted Apple would tackle in 2016. Multi-user functionality isn't at the top of the list for iOS improvements related to the iPad Pro -- paid upgrades, light versions of apps and better multitasking tend to lead the list. But it is a "pro" feature that would make the device even more valuable. It would allow a company to offer the pricey tablet in a more cost-effective way since a single iPad Pro could be shared among several staff members.

The big question with enterprise use of the Shared iPad feature is how far Apple would go in tying into existing enterprise systems. The company's Education Preview page implies that at least some of the management functionality will be tied to Managed Apple IDs and services like Apple's Device Enrollment Program and Volume Purchase Program, though it does reference integration with MDM/EMM software.

If Apple supports key enterprise systems like Active Directory, then managing shared iOS devices, including device access and usage logging, could be similar to managing PCs. The very functionality Apple is already implying for education use is essentially the same as Windows roaming profiles, in which a user receives the same Windows desktop and experience regardless of which PC they use.

This would significantly expand the versatility of iOS in the enterprise and could be a big step in making the iPad Pro a true competitor to the Surface Pro or other Windows tablets/hybrids.

A big step, not yet taken

Should Apple move forward with Shared iPad as a cornerstone feature of iOS, it will likely do so with iOS 10. Introducing the feature specifically for education at this stage represents a good testing ground for Apple and a way to reassure education customers that the company understands their needs.

If this does become a standard iOS feature, it will mark a major expansion of capability on par with support for mobile management in iOS 4 or Apple's Device Enrollment Program introduced in iOS 7. Whether Apple will move forward with multi-user support, to what extent, and in what form remain unanswered questions. But the idea is exciting from the perspective of educators, consumers, business users, and IT professionals.


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