Apple plans Mighty Mouse makeover

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Twenty five years after introducing the world to mouse-based computing, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is now hoping to deliver significant advances to the input device by applying the company's extensive research and development in multitouch technologies,*AppleInsider has learned.*



Apple's latest twist on the venerable mouse could arrive as early as this year, possibly in conjunction with the imminent release of new iMacs, the company's flagship desktop computer. Existing iMacs are reported to be in short supply in many locations, according to people familiar with Apple's retail channel inventory.*



The company's existing standalone Mighty Mouse product, which ships in both wired and wireless models, is also currently on a two week backorder through at least one of the Mac maker's direct fulfillment channels. Mighty Mouse availability hasn't been an issue within the past two years, people who deal in those channels say. This could be seen as further evidence that a*new mouse may be hiding*around the corner.*



Designing a mightier mouse



Apple's next mouse is expected to do away with the Mighty Mouse's problematic mechanical roller ball, using expanded touch sensitive housing and "multipoint touch detection mechanism" technologies described in recent patent filings.*



Given Apple's patented "inertia feedback" used on the iPod and iPhone, where item lists bounce when reaching the top or bottom and scrolling speeds accelerate in response to how the user touches the surface, the next Apple mouse is similarly expected to wed new hardware with sophisticated software to deliver an intuitive new feel in scroll navigation.



Should the new mouse arrive alongside revamped iMacs, it's also likely to drop the white plastic finish it formerly used to match previous Mac models. Informed speculation would suggest the new hardware could sport an aluminum appearance to fit in with Apple's current lineup of desktop computers and notebooks, though those familiar with the product have not commented either way. People familiar with the company's plans have indicated the new iMac will eventually receive a retooled IR remote that drops white plastic for an aluminum finish.*



Thinking outside the mouse



The majority of Apple's systems are now notebooks with integrated, multitouch trackpads. Apple's investments in touch sensitive navigation have shown up in products from the iPod click-wheel to the iPhone and the multitouch trackpads on recent MacBook models. The existing Mighty Mouse only offers rudimentary touch sensitivity in comparison, featuring a two sided virtual button top that can be configured to respond to clicks either as a single button device or as separate right and left clicks.*



Other types of Mighty Mouse navigation, including scrolling, require physical manipulation of the Mighty Mouse scroll ball button, a problematic mechanical device that appears to be salvaged from a previous decade. The soft rubbery button picks up dirt and oils and quickly becomes an irritating frustration to use, often losing responsiveness.



While Apple has recently delivered regular new advancements in sophisticated multitouch trackpad technologies for its MacBook line, its standard mouse for desktop users has only leisurely followed industry trends, picking up features such as Bluetooth wireless or optical LED and then laser tracking, for example. The arrival of a smarter mouse appears set to reverse that lagging pace of innovation.*



*



The modern, mundane Apple mouse



Apple's last several generations of mice have delivered disappointment, stretching back to the original iMac's "hockey puck" mouse introduced in 1998. While unveiling that year's iMac, Jobs called it "the coolest mouse on the planet." In reality, the round device was so impossibly difficult to orient in the hand that it helped spawn a third party flood of replacement devices, resulting in what many credit for kickstarting the shift to USB peripherals.*



*



Apple then stunned professionals by retaining the iMac's candy colored hockey puck mouse (with its old fashioned roller ball) for use with its high end Power Macs. In 2000, it finally shipped a more upscale version called the Apple Pro Mouse, using classier clear plastics in solid white or black, along with optical LED tracking that finally got rid of the dirt-collecting trackball.



A flat white Mighty Mouse appeared in 2005, with four independently programmable buttons: the top roller ball button, a thumb-and-finger pinch button, and two sensitive areas for right and left clicks, which could be combined to result in a simple one button mouse. A revised Bluetooth version shipped in 2006 with more accurate laser optical tracking.



On page 2 of 2: Steve Jobs: mouse advocate



Steve Jobs: mouse advocate



The new mouse design has Jobs' fingerprints all over it, according to those familiar with the initiative. While Jobs hasn't always hit home runs (his iPod HiFi was a simple flop, while the luxury-priced PowerMac G4 Cube hit the market squarely after the dotcom bubble burst and its clever technologies resulted in various reliability problems for users), he is broadly recognized to have an incredibly sharp perception for discovering future trends, particularly in the area of usability.*



The mouse is a good example.*It was first conceptualized by computing pioneer Douglas Engelbart, working with Bill English back in the early 60s. Engelbart's two wheeled "X Y Position Indicator" mouse was intended to be used continuously along with a one-handed chording keyboard, but that complex vision of a future of 'computer aided intellect' never escaped the lab.*



English brought the mouse idea to Xerox PARC in the early 70s, where he replaced Engelbart's wheels with a single ball that allowed a free range of motion. At PARC, the mouse was seen as an assisting pointing device to be used as needed, with both hands normally working on a standard keyboard. Despite public demonstrations of the technology, nobody brought the mouse to market commercially before the 1981 Xerox Star.



The Xerox Star was targeted toward businesses as part of an overall package (including networked laser printing and a file server) that started around $75,000. Xerox didn't anticipate the market for personal computing, and was bound by a 1975 FCC consent decree mandating compulsory licensing of Xerox’s patents, intended to prevent one company from dominating the tech industry.*



Combined with the fact that Englebart's original mouse patents had expired, that left the door open for third parties to run with the mouse, but few saw any potential in it.*When Apple employees saw the Star, they immediately recognized the future of graphical computing. Jobs in particular pushed to develop a mouse-based computing environment accessible to consumers. He hired a variety of Xerox engineers and allowed Xerox to invested a million dollars into Apple stock in exchange for a technology preview of various advanced ideas brewing in the Xerox labs.



Moving the mouse from the lab to market*



While other Xerox technologies flowed out of PARC and were commercialized by Adobe (PostScript), Microsoft (Word), 3Com (Ethernet) and many others, nobody pushed mouse-based graphical computing as quickly or as completely as Apple did. It invested $50 million into developing the 1983 Lisa, and then produced a consumer version of the technology in the 1984 Macintosh, dramatically bringing down the cost of mouse-centric computing to a price point affordable to individuals.*



Convincing the conservative computing establishment would take longer. In 1984, columnist John Dvorak wrote, "The nature of the personal computer is simply not fully understood by companies like Apple (or anyone else for that matter). Apple makes*the arrogant assumption of thinking that it knows what you want and need. [...] The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a ‘mouse’. There is no evidence that people want to*use these things. I don't want one of these new fangled devices."



Apple continued to improve the mouse. While the Lisa's mouse was designed by Hovey-Kelley, an outside firm, Jobs pushed to make the Mac's mouse easier to use, with a larger button and a rubberized ball to replace the original's slippery steel ball. The boxy design of the Mac's original mouse was later flattened out for the Apple IIGS in 1986, where it also adapted use of Apple Desktop Bus, a flexible new cabling scheme designed by Steve Wozniak. Apple computers used ADB mice over the next decade.



Jobs adopted ADB ports at NeXT for his two-button mice, but Apple staunchly maintained the use of a single button for its Macs, based on research that showed entry level consumers were often confused by multiple buttons. In 1993, Apple issued an ADB II mouse with rounded sides, but made no further changes until Jobs returned and approved the USB hockey puck mouse for the iMac in 1998.*



In between, however, Apple was largely focused on the growth happening in mobile systems, both with its PowerBook line and the stylus-driven Newton MessagePad. The PowerBook popularized the trackball on notebooks at a time when the vast majority of PC laptops were still running character-based DOS. Apple then pioneered the use of trackpads on notebook computers with the 1994 PowerBook 500.



It makes sense that Apple's engineering efforts would focus on its notebooks both then and now, as that's where the company has made most of its money. Still, the iMac's outdated Mighty Mouse with its physical scroll ball provides a significant opportunity for revising the desktop experience and bringing multitouch technologies already deployed on notebooks, the iPhone and iPod touch to the company's desktop users.*



For more on Apple's upcoming Mac hardware announcements see:



Apple ready and waiting with redesigned iMac line



Apple close to unveiling all-new MacBook line



Apple to retain, redesign plastic MacBook family



Apple's next iMacs rumored with compelling new features



Apple may extend antiglare display option to more Macs



Briefly: more affordable iMacs from Apple expected by fall



Apple to introduce more affordable Macs, sources say
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 164
    "Apple introduces the all new 'Minnie Mouse'"
  • Reply 2 of 164
    allblueallblue Posts: 393member
    Hopefully they will wipe Steve Jobs' fingerprints off before shipping as greasy finger marks would not be a very compelling consumer experience.
  • Reply 3 of 164
    The quicker they replace that shitty clog-ball the better.
  • Reply 4 of 164
    $50 says it's going to suck, like every mac mouse shipped by apple in the last 10 years



    That's one of the reasons Logitech is so profitable... maybe they pay Apple to ship crappy mice...



    ... nah maybe not.
  • Reply 5 of 164
    ivan.rnn01ivan.rnn01 Posts: 1,822member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    In 2000, it finally shipped a more upscale version called the Apple Pro Mouse, using classier clear plastics in solid white or black, along with optical LED tracking that finally got rid of the dirt-collecting trackball.



    The classiest input device I've ever held in my hand, absolutely impractical, though.

    (Ummm... Indeed. We all were black, like Steve, in those distant days.)
  • Reply 6 of 164
    have two buttons.



    Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all day.
  • Reply 7 of 164
    mrksbmrksb Posts: 2member
    hehe i misread the headline as "Apple plans Mickey Mouse makeover".... could happen since Steve is on Board
  • Reply 8 of 164
    godriflegodrifle Posts: 266member
    ...product announcement of the year. I *love* the scrollball idea; I *hate* the implementation.
  • Reply 9 of 164
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,367member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Strawberry View Post


    The quicker they replace that shitty clog-ball the better.



    I hear you! I have tried alcohol, compressed air and swearing at it. My tiny roller ball remains unable to scroll anywhere but sideways and that is sporadic at best. Helpful suggestions welcome.
  • Reply 10 of 164
    benroethigbenroethig Posts: 2,782member
    What took them so long? Hopefully the new one won't be a flawed execution of a good idea like the current Mighty Mouse.
  • Reply 11 of 164
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


    I hear you! I have tried alcohol, compressed air and swearing at it. My tiny roller ball remains unable to roll anywhere but sideways and that is sporadic at best. Helpful suggestions welcome.



    Alcohol on some toilet paper.

    put the toilet paper on a hard table

    and rool the ball on it really fast

    all the dirt will come out of the ball

    p.s use a lot of alcohol
  • Reply 12 of 164
    benroethigbenroethig Posts: 2,782member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by super8sean View Post


    Alcohol on some toilet paper.

    put the toilet paper on a hard table

    and rool the ball on it really fast

    all the dirt will come out of the ball

    p.s use a lot of alcohol



    Repeat daily, use alcohol on both mouse and yourself.
  • Reply 13 of 164
    js29js29 Posts: 44member
    After getting a 13" MacBookPro for the wife a few weeks ago, I have really come to like the multitouch pad. I'd be happy with a similar stand alone multitouch pad for our iMac. I understand that many still love their mice, but it would be nice to have a choice of input devices.
  • Reply 14 of 164
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,367member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by super8sean View Post


    Alcohol on some toilet paper.

    put the toilet paper on a hard table

    and rool the ball on it really fast

    all the dirt will come out of the ball

    p.s use a lot of alcohol



    OK thanks. After a lot though I tend to drop the mouse.
  • Reply 15 of 164
    benroethigbenroethig Posts: 2,782member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JS29 View Post


    After getting a 13" MacBookPro for the wife a few weeks ago, I have really come to like the multitouch pad. I'd be happy with a similar stand alone multitouch pad for our iMac. I understand that many still love their mice, but it would be nice to have a choice of input devices.



    I have to agree with you. I would rather have a new keyboard with a pad built in or standalone bad than I would a new mouse.
  • Reply 16 of 164
    pxtpxt Posts: 683member
    Sad to say but, a standard two-button mouse for the Mac and a macbook keyboard having standard PC navigation keys would revolutionise my Mac experience for the better.
  • Reply 16 of 164
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,283member
    The puck mouse was great... but only if you held it delicately with two fingers and shove it lightly around. Maybe I'm the only one on the planet who liked it.

    The only real revolution would be to introduce something completely different. Not a "mightier mouse" that'd just be a mouse with touch gestures and better laser sensor or something. Still plaguing the citizens with stress on their wrists etc.

    No, invoation would be something like:

    - A keyboard that senses and tracks your hands hovering above it.

    - A dedicated touch input display with some kind of hinting tactile feedback.

    - A bluetooth ring for your index finger that tracks your movements like a "Wii Motion Plus" when you touch it with the thumb. Clicking would be done with air-flicking the index finger...



    ... yeah, hire me Apple, and I'll help you out with the inovation
  • Reply 18 of 164
    pxtpxt Posts: 683member
    I would like something like my mouse mat, soft but with a harder, slippy surface.

    I'd slide my finger around to position the cursor, flick to gesture/scroll, and press lightly into the surface to press or drag.
  • Reply 19 of 164
    I HATE the Mighty Mouse scroll ball button. It makes that piece of hardware unusable. This news can only be good, but I wonder would it be available as an upgrade for existing iMac owners?
  • Reply 20 of 164
    IMO the very best mouse alternative for a laptop is the Trackpoint, executed perfectly (well, almost perfectly) on ThinkPads and the number one reason I prefer - way prefer - my ThinkPad to my MacBook.



    They take a while to get used to but once you do - well, I prefer the trackpoint even to a physical mouse.
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