The fact of the matter is that the iPad is a lot more like a laptop than a smartphone in terms of how you need to protect your information. You wouldn't let your kids use your laptop under your personal login, with access to your emails, address book, documents, and instant messages. This will force parents and others to not sync their personal information -- through iTunes and MobileMe -- with the iPad, at which point the iPad has immediately lost a material portion of its intended utility.

It should be very easy for Apple to fix this critical flaw. In fact, Apple needs to do the same for the iPhone and the iPod Touch as well. You want to be able to lend your iPhone and iPod Touch to someone -- no matter how temporarily -- knowing that all this person can do is to surf the Web, depending on how limited you have set the permissions. The same goes for all the other smartphone systems - Blackberry from Research in Motion ( RIMM), Google's ( GOOG) Android, Palm ( PALM), Nokia ( NOK) and so forth.

Until such time that Apple fixes this critical flaw, however, this gives rise to what I predict will be the biggest complaint about the device, with the possible exception of the much-feared lack of ubiquitous multitasking. As it stands, no user in his or her right mind will dare to synch the iPad with iTunes and MobileMe. And there goes much of the utility of the device. And for those who dare, they have just signed their own personal information death warrant courtesy of their kids.

Someone told me that the solution will be for that family of four to simply buy four iPads. That may even be Apple's secret plan to beat all of its revenue estimates! Please. If there was a more obvious way to upset your new iPad owners, I can't think of one. You have just spent $500 to $830 on a device that's fundamentally less capable than a $300 laptop and immediately you're told that you need to buy four of them in order to protect your personal information. Please!

In the movie "Armageddon, one astronomer declares "We have 18 days!" until an asteroid hits Earth. Indeed, Apple, you have a April 3 deadline to fix this. You can do it. I hope. Or else the reviews won't read so well.

At the time of publication, Wahlman was long Apple, Palm, Research In Motion and Google.
At the time of publication, Wahlman was long Apple, Palm, Research in Motion and Google.

Anton Wahlman was a sell-side equity research analyst covering the communications technology industries from 1996 to 2008: UBS 1996-2002, Needham & Company 2002-2006, and ThinkEquity 2006-2008.

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