The fingerprint scanner is going to be very important for Apple going forward. I believe it’s going to be embedded to most if not virtually all hardware Apple produces that users interface with; naturally other vendors will get the hint and will alter their products strategy accordingly.

Specifically, I think the fingerprint scanner is here for a few main-core reasons.

  1. An elegant solution to the multi-user device sharing and access problem. Android requires logging in using your credentials-each family member is required to have one and use it if said member wishes to use a shared device, a tablet or whatever else. Apple can do better. You just tap your finger and your settings/personalised recommendations, everything tied to your account comes up. This I believe will not be just about the iPads, but for game controllers, Apple TV remotes and more (see later).
  2. This is, realistically, the best way to address the current/active user identification problem. Other solutions include typing in credentials, using voice control and Kinect-type visual/gestures-based recognition.
    The problem is that typing in is just not convenient, and the other two solutions require expensive processing, are sensitive to environment and configurations and have other requirements such as voice control requiring you to actually talk to the thing (you may not want to do that, or have a sore throat, whatever) and get in-line-of-sight with the sensor, turn lights on, or whatever else would satisfy the visual sensor of a Kinect like device. Fuzzy at best.
    Apple did better. You touch the thing, hey presto, no lag, it knows it is you (and you know what, it can just sync the fingerprint signature with other Apple devices via iCloud, no need to train each separately. BOOM).
  3. Apple is making it possible to use external game controllers to interface with iOS games/applications. I am pretty certain this has almost nothing to do with Apple wanting to provide more options for iPhone and iPad owners for gaming, instead this is clearly all about the Apple TV.The Apple TV runs iOS; once you have enough games supporting said external controllers, and this thing catches up, Apple will be able to entice gamers to use its device — grab your favourite game controller and go.
    It shouldn’t take long for iOS game developers to extend support for this new control scheme in most of their games. Brilliant move Apple. However, what is perhaps even more brilliant..
  4. Apple embeds this fingerprint scanner thing on an Apple produced game controller and a new generation Apple TV remote. You touch it, it knows it’s you. It provides APIs so that apps like Netflix, iTunes and indepedent-developer-Joe-apps can use to know who you are and provide all kinds of personalised experiences.

UPDATE

  1. I forgot to mention this transition to 64bit architecture; this is also about the Apple TV, I believe. Specifically, about providing access to video games to more than 4GB of RAM. RAM is cheap, video games love RAM, developers love RAM and latest game consoles provide access to 8GB of RAM. Apple will probably choose to do the same for the Apple TV, if only because it will make the job of game.devs easier and will facilitate the development of AAA quality games(nevermind that indy developers are lately coming up with way higher quality games than big name studios ..)

So all in all, I believe this is all about the Apple TV, for the most part. While at it, it makes sense to use the fingerprint thingie on other devices too — starting off with this new iPhone 5s so that people are addicted to the convenience it provides.

Apple people are smart. Sometimes cunning, even.

Of course, this is all conjecture and may never come to pass.
Exciting times though.