Tablets are the world's best family computers. What could be better to leave lying around on the kitchen table, for everyone in a family to pick up and use when they want, than a Web-reading, video-viewing, game-playing touch-screen device like an iPad or Android tablet?
Except for one thing: Today's tablets are terrible multi-person devices. They are, for the most part, oversized smartphones, and from smartphones they have inherited a key philosophy: One person per device. That's fine for a phone but not for a shared tablet. You may have your iPad set up just right for you, but give it to your spouse, and the e-mail, calendar, to-do list, browser shortcuts, game high scores, and every other personal setting will be all wrong. And worse, you don't want that spouse messing with your settings, do you?
Tablets need to support multiple logins, like computers running Windows, OS X, Chrome OS, and Linux do. Every time I hand my iPad over to my son I mutter a little curse a Apple: "No, I will not buy another blasted tablet just so he gets his own settings."
Until vendors build multiple user login support into their tablet OSes (Microsoft will probably be first here, with Windows 8), developers who see this deficit in the OS have to code it into their apps. The first app I know of to get this support is the hot news-reader app Zite ( ). The "Sybil" feature (cute) allows users to save their own reader preferences.
I'm glad to see this feature, but if other apps (games, e-mail apps) follow suit, it could end up being a big pain in the neck: You'll have to log in to each of your apps separately--and hope you remember to do so, lest you wreck someone else's settings. The user accounts feature really belongs in the operating system.
No word on when we'll get this baked into OS X or Android, but if you have a jailbroken iPad, you can also try User Profiles for iPad