Last week Apple updated its product line, ahead of Microsoft’s Windows 7 launch, and one of the new announcements was a replacement for the “Mighty Mouse”, which was quietly killed off a few weeks back after years of doing anything but living up to its name (as Adam Pash notes in Lifehacker’s coverage of Apple’s new lineup).
I first heard about Apple’s new “Magic Mouse” on Twitter:
and Apple’s latest mouse is a multitouch device that uses gestures to control the screen. As should be expected, it looks great but, as TechRadar reported, it doesn’t support a key gesture – the pinch zoom that we first saw on the iPhone and that Apple has made synonymous with multitouch through its advertising.
Furthermore, there’s no touch screen on any of Apple’s refreshed line-up. In fact, the iMac changes are mostly evolutionary (and there’s a new unibody entry-level MacBook). Meanwhile, with the launch of Windows 7, Microsoft now has advanced touch capability available within the operating system. A multitouch mouse is cool – seriously cool – but the real advantages of touch come with touch screens and other displays that take concepts like the Microsoft Surface table into mainstream computing uses.
Some people might not think touch is really a big deal, or that it’s just a bit gimmicky right now – but step back and take a look at what’s happened with smartphones: in 2007, Apple launched the iPhone and all we’ve seen since then is an endless stream of competing devices – each with multitouch capabilities. Now that’s crossing over into the PC marketplace and, unlike tablet PCs, or early Windows Mobile devices, there’s no need for a stylus and that’s why I believe touch will become much more signifcant that it has been previously. Only yesterday, I watched my young sons (both of whom are under 5) using one of Ikea’s play kiosks and they instantly knew what to do to colour in a picture on screen. As soon as prices drop, I’ll be buying a multitouch monitor for them to use with a PC at home as I expect touch to replace the mouse as the interface that their generation uses to access computing devices.
Far from nosing ahead of Microsoft, I believe Apple has missed the point with its new mouse (please excuse the, entirely accidental, pun). Just as in the years when they insisted that mice only needed a single button (indeed, one of the problems that made the Mighty Mouse so unreliable was that it offered all the functionality of a multi-button mouse with several contact switches under a single button shell in order to maintain the appearance of a single-button mouse), now they are implementing touch on trackpads and mice, rather than on screen. Sure, fingerprints on glass don’t look good but that hasn’t held back the iPhone – and nor would it the iMac or MacBook if they implemented multitouch on screen. For now, at least, Apple is holding off on touchscreen displays, whilst mainstream PC manufacturers such as Dell are embracing the potential for multitouch applications that the latest version of Windows offers. As for the criticism that multitouch monitors are spendy and Apple’s mouse is not, the monitors will come down in price pretty quickly and, based on my experience with Apple’s previous mouse, I won’t be rushing out to spend Â£55 on the latest model.
As it happens, I bought a mouse to match my white MacBook a couple of weeks ago. Ironically, its from Microsoft – the Arc mouse – and it manages to look good, feel good, and fold up for transportation with its (tiny) transponder neatly connected (with a magnet) to the underside. It seems that Jonathan Ive is not the only person that can design functional and stylish computer hardware (most of the time).