Did Apple Just Kill the Mouse?

What Apple giveth, Apple can also taketh away. At least they can try.

This week Apple Computer rolled out the Magic Trackpad, a smooth polished hunk of a thing that is, plain and simple, a larger, freestanding version of the trackpad from the MacBook Pro laptop line. It is unquestionably elegant (as is everything that the folks in Cupertino put out into the world these days) unadorned, proportioned to exactly match the Apple keyboard it is intended to sit next to. The most surprising thing about this product, to me at least, is that it has taken this long to show up.

The big wow about this item is that it takes the whole range of so-called Multi-Touch gestures — pinching, swiping, rotating — power moves until now the privilege of those who own Apple’s laptop and touch screen products, and makes them suddenly available to the desktop user.

This will certainly not be a game-changer for a lot of users, users who are used to a mouse and who find trackpads fussy, unpredictable, and frustrating. That is fine; this product is not for them — yet. Users who can most immediately benefit from this more flexible interface, such as those working heavily with photos, video, document layout, and so on, are, I believe, going to really like this thing. I don’t think it will take long for this thing to win a lot of fans.

Do I want this thing? Surprisingly, yes. I am someone who still has little desire for an iPad, if I had a sit-down desktop setup at home I would absolutely want the Magic Trackpad as part of it. I could also see it being of tremendous use in our current setup, where our 20-inch iMac serves as our family room media center. Sitting back on the far side of the room with the Magic Trackpad at my elbow might give me a lot more control and save me a few times up and down when we are watching shows.

In fine: barring any undiscovered design flaws, this product is going to find its way onto a lot of desktops on the next few years, and as consumers get the hang of it, I believe that the mouse’s star, burning brightly ever since 1984, will truly begin to fade.

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