Multiple account devices are in Androids future but what does that mean

first_imgOne major feature that Windows 8 will be able to hold over Android and iOS is that it will be the first family-oriented tablet OS. I have lamented the lack of a family experience in mobile tech before — can you imagine trying to share an iPad or a Nexus 7 across three or four people as the “family” computer? The notifications alone would drive you crazy. The fact is that these operating systems are designed for an individual to use, and they have been since day one. As these devices become a part of the home, something will need to be done. If you are a fan of Android, it looks like that support might not be that far off.We’ve seen a number of points in Google’s Android Open Source Project that suggest multiple account support is coming. The guys at Android Police did a fantastic breakdown of all the code that has been introduced. Of course there’s miles of code in Android that will need to be adjusted in order to support this, and there’s no telling what the resource requirements for such a massive change to how Android works, but it is being worked on nonetheless, perhaps as a feature for the next version of Android or maybe in a minor release (Android 4.1.2 for instance).Very little is known about how this will work, but I suspect that one of the big features that will play into this service will be Face Unlock. Since there’s already facial recognition capabilities on the device, it’s not far fetched to see Face Unlock be able to detect the correct face and line up the face with the account on the device. Other, less exciting methods will include a traditional username and password access, but that’s to be expected.The code that exists in AOSP is enough for several members of the Android community to try and release their own implementations of this service. Early this month a video cropped up with a very, very broken implementation, but the proof of concept was enough to start others on the path. Now, there exists a User Management app in the Google Play Store for Android 4.1 devices. Your device needs to be rooted in order to take advantage of the service, but if you have made that leap then you will be able to create multiple accounts on a device and switch back and forth between them. This app is only as functional as the code that is already in AOSP, but it helps paint a pretty good picture of the things to come.There’s a lot of unknowns involved in this right now. Android devices grow more powerful every day, but there’s no knowing what kind of resources this kind of service will need when supporting three or more fully active profiles. It is unlikely to work the same way multiple accounts work in Chrome and Chrome OS. Also storage will become an issue pretty quickly, and on devices where storage is a finite resource that can becomes problematic quickly. This also seems like a feature where it would be less of a good idea to allow the manufacturers to modify and change, and that’s exactly what they would want to do. HTC for example would obviously want to allow for their services to be tied in to the profile switching, which has the potential to cause all sorts of problems.How would apps work in a multi-account Android existence? When you purchase an app are you purchasing it for the device or for the account like you do right now? Will app publishers be able to offer a moderately more expensive “device license” for their apps, or will you be forced to purchase multiple copies of everything for one tablet? It’s easy to limit things like movies and music to a single account, because that information isn’t stored on the tablet. When you start to look at things like the $16 Final Fantasy 3, that 172MB base size quickly absorbs a significant chunk of your on-board storage. What about device security? Your tablet is only as secure as the least security conscious person with an account at that point, if you are sharing apps and data when the tablet is hijacked, is your account and your data safe?Having a multi-account experience on Android is vital for the future of the mobile platform. Not just because of Windows 8, but because we are quickly trending towards a world where the “family tablet” is something that will become more common. Maybe a tablet that sits in the living room and is only used by whoever is in there at the moment, or the device that is simultaneously the recipe machine and the fantasy football stats box. It will be very interesting to see how Google transforms Android from a single-person luxury into the new family computer.More reading: Tech has no love for the family manlast_img

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