Last week technologist Dave DeLong wrote a smart piece on his blog called “If iPads Were Meant for Kids” in which he argues that Apple’s signature tablets are less than ideally suited for younger users and their parents. His post is essentially a rundown of improvements that he suggests for the platform, several of which are ingenious. Here are a few of my favorites:
A centralized system for content ratings that can inform third-party apps. Parents would be able to allow only G and PG media, say, and every app on the device could register that setting and adjust its own content settings accordingly.
Timer settings that can restrict kids’ device sessions. Parents could set a device to lock after a certain amount of time and as the limit nears, the iPad could flash warnings to the child before shutting them out. Parents could also restrict usage during certain hours, e.g., during weekdays or evenings.
The ability for parents to install apps on the child’s iPad remotely. This would contrast with the current method in which kids request permission to install an app, the benefit being that it would minimize the child’s time spent within and exposure to the App Store.
Options to disable both incoming and outgoing iMessage and FaceTime communications except with certain approved contacts. There are third party solutions that accomplish similar goals, but the ubiquity of Apple’s text and video messaging platform makes it so much easier for trusted contacts to communicate with children. A whitelist feature like this would be a huge enhancement.
DeLong’s other ideas are also worthwhile. You can read the full post at davedelong.com.
The extent to which one can easily imagine a multitude of enhancements to the iPad for various user groups is indicative of the device’s unique circumstances. On the one hand, Apple sells more iPads each quarter than it does Macs and the business is on an upward trend. On the other hand, it’s clear that lots of different types of users could benefit from more specialized iPad features—not just children and parents.
Apple’s focus last year on professional iPad users and their very recent efforts to make the iPad more appealing for education users demonstrate this. The company’s challenge here is nontrivial in that they will need to prioritize among several different kinds of highly valuable users in the short term—but ultimately success may lie in building deep experiences for all of them. It’s actually pretty exciting to think about; good iPad software—apps that strike that special balance between ease of use, portability and raw power—is for me the true sweet spot for what computing can be.