Mouse Meets Multi-Touch
Apple's latest peripheral, the Magic Mouse, takes the concept of multi-touch that the iPhone and iPod touch popularized and merges it with a button-free mouse. As one's mouse is a direct point of contact between human and machine, any changes made to it can be a divisive issue. Some users love the new abilities Magic Mouse brings to the table; others just can't stand the thing.
11/09/09 4:00 AM PT
If Apple has its way, buttons will become a thing of the past. After slowly emaciating the mechanical controls on its wildly popular iPod media players and obliterating them from the touchpads on its notebook computer line, it now wants to purge them from every keyboard jock's favorite rodent.
The company's new Magic Mouse, which is standard with all new iMacs or can be purchased separately for US$69, is as sleek as an alien interstellar taxi, its other-worldly appearance fortified by the total absence of buttons.
Power of Touch
With Magic Mouse, Apple brings the power of touch found on its iPhone and iPod touch to the desktop vole.
Left and right clicks are performed by tapping the left and right side of the peripheral. The device can also be reconfigured for southpaws, so the left side of the unit acts as the right button on a conventional mouse.
Scrolling can be activated by moving a finger vertically along the body of the mouse. If you swipe your finger vertically, you can move rapidly up or down a page, a technology called "kinetic scrolling."
By swiping two fingers horizontally across the rodent's surface, you can rapidly browse music in iTunes, flip through Web pages in a browser or flick through pictures in iPhoto.
You can zoom in and out on objects on your desktop with the mouse, too, by holding down the control key and performing vertical drags with a single finger.
You can also pan around a window in any direction by brushing your finger around the surface of the mouse.
In addition to its ability to cater to left-handed users, the curvaceous vole can be customized in a number of other ways. Tracking, scrolling and double-click speeds can be controlled with sliders, and less adventurous computerists can shut off all the device's touch features.
For some time, optical technology in mice has made the use of mouse pads unnecessary, but according to Apple, its Magic Mouse goes beyond that tech. Its enchanting rodent contains laser tracking that's far more sensitive and responsive than a typical optical mouse, which allows it to track precisely on almost any surface.
As has become de rigueur with premium mice these days, Magic Mouse is wireless. However, it uses Bluetooth, so it's unnecessary to use a separate wireless adapter to make a connection with a Bluetooth-compatible Mac. When transporting the device, it can be shut off to conserve power, but if you forget to turn it off, its electronics are designed to reduce power consumption during prolonged periods of inactivity.
Magic Mouse is designed for Macs, and that platform must be used to take full advantage of the unit's advanced features. However, some users have reported that the rodent will work as a simple two-button mouse with Bluetooth enabled PCs running Windows 7.
When a computer staple like a mouse is radically altered, as is being done by Apple, user reaction is usually mixed, and that seems to be the case with the Magic Mouse.
"It's a step forward, because Apple has brought the multi-touch features from its trackpads and handsets to the mouse," recent Magic Mouse owner Kevin C. Tofel, editor of JkOnTheRun, a blog on mobile devices, told MacNewsWorld.
Another benefit of the unit, he explained, is it requires almost no cleaning. "Older mice used to get gunked up and become unresponsive," he said. "There's no moving parts here. It's just me dragging my finger on the surface of the mouse to scroll."
On the other hand, Michele King, owner of Straightline Publishing in Warrenton, Va., is unenthused with the new vole. "The Apple Magic Mouse is comfortable but annoying," she told MacNewsWorld. "At least three to five times per day I'll be mousing along and then suddenly the cursor goes flying off to one of the upper corners of the screen."
"I love Macs and the majority of the Apple line, but their mouse is a huge pain to work with," she added.
Mixed reviews, though, may just be the price that must be paid by any company that wants to push the envelope of technology, even if that technology is something as common as a mouse.
"Apple didn't invent the mouse, but it has taken it to a whole new level," Michael Gartenberg, vice president of strategy and analysis in the New York City offices of marketing research firm Interpret, told MacNewsWorld.
"Magic Mouse integrates multi-touch into an operating system not designed for it in a way that makes sense," he added. "Much as Apple has integrated multi-touch into the trackpad of the MacBook line, Magic Mouse does the same for desktop users and firmly puts Apple in the leader of multi-touch innovation, whether on a touchscreen or non-touchscreen."