Users of Google's Android platform have been requesting support for multiple user accounts for months now. The feature has not been necessary for smartphones, which are mostly personal devices. The rise of tablet computing, however, means that mobile operating systems will soon begin adopting familiar features from desktop operating systems. Tablets, like desktop computers, are often shared throughout a household, making multiple user accounts a necessity.
Now it has been discovered that Google is, in fact, in the process of adding multi-user support to its Android operating system. The newest version of Android, 4.1 Jelly Bean, already contains code to support such a feature. The discovery was made by Ron Amadeo over at Android Police. Amadeo shows how code submitted to the Android Open Source Project will be used to implement multi-user support. Major features include different lock screens, homescreen layouts, and available apps.
The portion of multi-user support code already running in Android 4.1 includes a multi-user directory structure. This means that info such as installed apps and wallpaper are being stored in a "users" directory instead of a single system directory. In this case, the info is stored in a folder labeled "0", so Android 4.1 users are simply user 0. In the future, users will presumably be able to name their account whatever they choose.
It's a highlight of the open source model that features such as multi-user support are already beginning to be implemented. Soon enough, users will be able to have a shared device that will be fully customized to their user experience. Parents and children will be able to share an Android tablet without the parents having to wade through children's apps and media. As tablets begin to replace desktop computers for casual home use, many of the features that desktop operating systems provide will begin to appear in mobile operating systems. Keeping that in mind, perhaps Windows 8 really is a visionary product rather than a strange misstep.