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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