There aren’t many sacred cows left in computing – the beige box, CRT and floppy drive are dead. But the mouse has remained. Until now.
Apple calls it the Magic TrackPad.
And if you use a Mac, for USD$69, with a pinch and a swipe, it might just kill your computer mouse.
OK, maybe that's a bit extreme — even the folks at Apple who invented the thing aren't saying this will replace the old mouse entirely.
But the smooth silvery surface, about the size of a CD jewel case, is probably the first mainstream peripheral that credibly could. This wireless, battery-controlled surface will feel familiar to users of Apple’s laptops, iPhones and iPad: Two fingers scroll, three roll, and four clear the screen.
It’s a big change from moving your wrist and clicking buttons. But just because Steve Jobs likes it, don’t assume it’ll change the world: Apple has occasionally made mice people hated. Hockey puck, anyone?
For what it’s worth, though, I like it.
Even though I don't own one of Apple's newer laptops that use the same gestures as the Magic TrackPad, after just a couple of minutes I had the hang of it.
The best thing about it is that it made quick work of functions that are otherwise assigned to obscure keyboard shortcuts, and allowed me to use simple motions to switch between apps, view all of my open windows or flip through photos. Plus, my wrist didn't get the usual mouse treatment of having to move at awkward angles to make the cursor hit the far corners of the screen.
Will it replace the mouse overnight? Not a chance. The gestures work with Macs only, and that's just a sliver of the market. But I do think this could signal the beginning of the end for the old-fashioned pointing device. In an age where touch is a hit, it might be time for the good old mouse to go.