Largely overlooked amid the overwhelming iPad hype is its biggest potential achievement. Apple's touch-screen quasi-PC may have finally struck a fatal blow to the long-standing king of input devices, the computer mouse.
Make no mistake about it, the era of the familiar PC mouse is coming to an end. It may not be a 2012-style apocalypse (and the mouse will surely hang on in some form for many years to come), but the door is slowly shutting on the universal acceptance of this single iconic piece of hardware that we have equated with personal computing for decades (for argument's sake, let's agree to date its lifespan from the 1972 invention of the ball mouse, and its use as a consumer device from the 1981 Xerox Star). Replacing it is an array of touch input devices and icon-focused operating systems that are built (not always for the better) around expediency over flexibility.
Long before the iPad, touch-screen tablet PCs had been around for years, occasionally enjoying a brief surge in consumer interest, and then fading away again, as users discovered that touch navigation was not really ready for prime time. Apple's iPhone, and later the iPod Touch, changed all that, bringing actual one-to-one touch to the masses for the first time.
But on the PC side, this only made the sluggish, temperamental touch screens found on most tablets even more glaringly obvious; we frequently described these devices as having a rubber-band effect. You'd drag a finger across the screen to move an icon, and it would follow behind by half a beat, as if on the end of a rubber band. The takeway was that touch was workable on tiny handhelds, but not well-suited to larger laptop screens.
The iPad's disruptive success in building a larger touch environment that has received almost universal praise puts the lie to that theory. It may not be as productivity friendly as your ThinkPad, but add a Bluetooth keyboard and Apple's iWork apps, and you've got a reasonable approximation of a laptop experience in many cases.
But even before the iPad, PCs that traded the mouse for a fingertip have been making significant strides. HP has led the way with its TouchSmart line of all-in-one desktops and convertible tablet laptops. Again, the experience wasn't entirely seamless, but each successive generation of these systems has seen further refinement of their specialized touch interfaces, which sit on top of Windows, hiding the mouse-driven desktop from view. Asus also did an decent job with the custom interface on the Eee PC T91, a touch-screen version of the popular Eee PC Netbook (despite that system's other flaws).… Read more
One of the improvements that Apple included in the 10.6.3 update is compatibility with USB input devices. While this may have fixed some problems people were having with third-party mice and keyboards, it seems to have caused problems for other people where device input will periodically pause for about 10 seconds to 15 seconds.… Read more
LONDON--The same technology that exterminated the roller-ball computer mouse will claim another casualty soon: the four-way rocker switch that lets people point and click on countless mobile phones.
So asserts Jeff Raynor, principal technologist of ST Microelectronics' imaging division and a designer of the image sensors at the heart, or rather in the eyes, of optical mice. He spoke at the Image Sensors Europe conference here.
What will extinguish the rocker switch? What Raynor calls the "fingermouse"--a small, smooth pad you can sweep your finger over to direct a mouse pointer on a screen. Some newer BlackBerry phones sport the devices.
Fingermice use exactly the same image sensors as optical mice, but they're mounted upside-down, pointing upward toward a finger rather than downward toward a desk. The sensors take 400-pixel images, then recognize the movement of features in the photo sequence--desk irregularities or fingerprints, for example--to gauge motion.
Raynor's company makes silicon-chip image sensors for optical mice, so one shouldn't be surprised by his enthusiasm, but he is in a position to know what he's talking about.… Read more
Tiny New Zealand is an up-and-comer in the global tech industry, and Antibody Software's WizMouse is one of the first commercial software products we've encountered from the island nation known for its digital cinematic capabilities. It's a small bit of freeware that lets you use your mouse's scroll wheel to scroll through the window currently under the mouse pointer instead of the top focused or "active" window. Instead of having to click the mouse on the inactive window to enable scrolling, you merely have to position the cursor over the window to focus it. … Read more