I have been really looking forward to seeing and using an iPad.  At least, until now.  I have confirmed with an iPad reviewer that the iPad DOES NOT have a multi-user interface.  This means there’s only one account for e-mail, browsing, iPhoto use, or iTunes, no matter how many people need to use it.  Essentially, it means the iPad really is just a big iPhone or iPod Touch.

Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that.  But mobile phones are definitely a single-user device not usually shared except for short periods.  There are a lot of people out there who were looking at the iPad as a family oriented device.  If your idea of family use means everyone is sharing everything and no one has anything of their own, the current iteration of the iPad will meet your needs.

Everyone will use the device a little differently, which is part of the beauty of the thing and something that a multi-user interface would greatly promote.  But having to put everyone on the same profile means that little Tommy and Mommy and Daddy must all share e-mail, web bookmarks, applications, contacts, and, ultimately, irritations.  It’s togetherness fostered in exactly the wrong way.

It’s not that such a situation is unmanageable; it’s that the iPad is designed to enhance and immerse one in its flowing, beautiful experience.  Imagine how easily that will be destroyed when you have to wade through tons of someone else’s bookmarks just to get to the three you routinely use. Or the irritation at the total lack of privacy that everyone must sign up for to use it.  Once you’ve gone through a contact list three times as long as it had to be once too often, you’ll wonder why Apple didn’t think it through.

Or maybe they did.  Maybe they figured it was a way to sell more iPads.  And, indeed, they may sell a few more because of it.  Ultimately, though, the company is going to lose more sales than they get.  Many families that want the iPad will barely be able to afford one, and the lack of a multi-user interface that helps Dad and Mom manage its use or just keeps the kids doing their own thing without encroaching on Mom’s or Dad’s space will turn out to be a show-stopper.  Some prospective buyers in some online forums are already saying so.

Multi-tasking, be dammed!  It’s hard to believe that the multi-user problem can’t be fixed with a software patch somewhat easily.  The implementation of something like Fast User Switching used in OS X would seem to cost little or nothing in CPU time or additional code, versus the implementation of something like multi-tasking.   Maybe that’s not true.  Whatever.  All I know is that if Apple really wants to make the iPad ubiquitous in a lot of homes, incorporating a multi-user interface is something they need to do…and soon!