The iPad is inherently an individualized device – ‘Our Pad' makes it easier to work around that.
A growing number of faculty and staff members at The College of Westchester have been using iPads and we're always learning more about their functionality and potential uses. One idea that comes up from time to time is the possibility of using them in multi-user situations. Perhaps we could have iPads available to loan for use within the Library, or maybe a few people in a department or work group might want to share the use of one?
A significant challenge with this would appear to be the individualized nature of the devices – the “i” in iPad could easily stand for “individual” since the device is highly personalized. For example, if you set up an email account using the iPad's built in email app, when you give that device to someone else they will have access to that email account (and not to their own – at least, not through the app). This is clearly a problem if your users would want to access personalized resources, like email or many social networking tools. There also isn't any “log on” process naturally incorporated into the device, where you can use it to let different users log on to a network to access resources.
The “Our Pad” App for the iPad
After searching the web for potential solutions to this challenge, I found one app that is designed to help meet this need – an inexpensive ($2.99) app called “Our Pad”, available here in the iTunes store.
What the Our Pad App Does
The basic idea behind Our Pad is that it stores user names and passwords for a couple dozen pre-configured web apps (and you can add your own) for multiple users. Each user sets up a simple security ‘pattern' and uses it to sign in to the Our Pad app (although this is a concern and potential shortcoming – this security approach is too simplistic, unless it can be expanded on, it is possible for another user to figure out another user's pass code). When you are signed in as the current user on that iPad, your configured apps are available through a little slide up menu (shown in the screen shot above).
An important thing to understand is that this is really only providing access to the mobile web versions of these applications – not their actual iPad apps. For example, in the background on the screen shot above we see the mobile Gmail interface, not the iPad Mail app – this is what Our Pad provides access to if you configure it for use with Gmail. The fact is, you can already let a user access any web app and sign into it on an iPad, Our Pad just makes it a lot more convenient.
Our Pad looks like a great solution for when a known group of users wishes to share an iPad on a regular basis and they are willing to use web apps in place of iPad apps to access personalized tools like Gmail, Facebook, and many others. In situations in which random users want to use an iPad to access these types of apps, it may also be useful, but each time a new user wants to use it they are going to have be set up (app set up is quick and easy to do for one app, more apps just take a little more time).
This still does not address the potential need to share personalized iPad apps – this simply may not be possible (perhaps a future release of iOS will address this), but what the Our Pad app provides for just $2.99 is excellent functionality for sharing access to personalized web based applications via the iPad, but the security may be a too weak for some to be comfortable.
Are you sharing iPads? How's it working out? What works well and what doesn't? Do you have any tips or apps that you use to help address some of these challenges? We'd love to hear from you!
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