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  • What Apple Can Learn from Logitech and Microsoft

    August 20th, 2005

    Rather than refer you to my previous writings on the Apple Mighty Mouse, let me summarize: For an Apple mouse, it’s one of the best ever and in some respects a remarkably clever design. The standard software, which only gains all its features under 10.4.2, lets you use it as an ordinary single button mouse and remain, except for that little scroll button thingie, virtually indistinguishable from the Pro mouse that ships with all new desktop Macs. It’s also suited for both right- and left-handed use, and that’s a big plus.

    At the same time, familiarity can bring contempt for some, or at least a lack of comfort. Different strokes for different folks. In my case, my middle finger began to tingle after a few days of face time with a Mighty Mouse. But even if I didn’t suffer from that telltale symptom that, for some, might presage a repetitive stress injury, there were other irritants that grew with extended use. That scroll button, for example, although it has a decent sideways motion, seemed to lack the precision of a standard scroll wheel, at least for me. The side buttons were downright awkward. I guess nature endowed me with the wrong type of fingers (long and thin if you must know). Great for piano playing, but lousy for basketball.

    The reaction among reviewers and just plain people has been equally mixed. Some adore it, and others find it wanting for one reason or another. And even if every single feature worked perfectly, the fact that you need Mac OS 10.4.2 to gain all its customization features via the supplied software seems odd. There’s nothing in the Mighty Mouse’s capabilities that should prevent Apple from delivering fully compatible drivers for early Mac OS versions and Windows too. Or maybe it was rushed to market before the full complement of software was completed, but I can’t imagine the process of building drivers for a computer mouse is all that daunting.

    And what about that wire? At $49, there are plenty of wireless alternatives.

    Right after talking about the product during an interview for The Tech Night Owl LIVE, I fished out my trusty Logitech MX1000 Laser Cordless Mouse, and it fell comfortably to my right hand as if an extra appendage. Within a day, the tingling in my fingers was gone. As I returned to my daily routine, I took note of other features in the MX1000 that, to me, indicated Logitech did its homework. Right-clicking for example. On the Mighty Mouse, I had to raise that middle finger before I could invoke the context menu, and this may be one reason why I suffered that extra discomfort. Not so with the MX1000. The side switches at the left also felt ideally suited for thumb movement.

    Next comes the software. Although not all Logitech products are fully compatible with Macs these days, and I fear the arrival of the Mighty Mouse may make the situation even worse, you’re not restricted to a single system version. Version 1.5 of the Logitech Control Center supports Mac OS versions back to 10.1.4, and is clearly fully compatible with Tiger. There is also a far greater combination of customization options. By the way, the MX1000 is only $59.95, but you have to endure the endless wait for a $20 rebate to end up with that price.

    At the other end of the scale, the MX1000 is for right-handers only. There are, however, other models in the Logitech line that are also suitable for southpaws. In fact, as you pore through the choices, you’ll find lots of configurations, and most anyone can locate the proper configuration. Ditto for Microsoft, which also sports a choice selection of input devices including one, the Optical Mouse by Starck, that appears to make a fashion statement. And there is Mac software for many of these devices.

    It’s not that Apple tries to feign ignorance of the alternatives. Take a look at the offerings at Apple’s online store, for example. Belkin, Kensington, Logitech, Microsoft and others are represented in a fairly decent selection of input devices. The “killer” input device for you may very well be found without having to consider a different retail outlet.

    So where does all this leave the Mighty Mouse? If you love the standard Apple mouse, it’ll be ideal. I also expect it to end up as standard issue in new Macs in the near future, a home-brewed response to those who have been clamoring for a multibutton mouse from Apple for years. It’s also tailor-made for the forthcoming MacIntels, or whatever they’ll be called, simply because those computers will also be able to run Windows. And, lest we forget, Windows was designed around the multibutton mouse.

    In a sense, however, I’m disappointed with Apple. Although some of the Mighty Mouse’s design aspects are clever, and, in fact, downright cute, it’s not a trendsetter by any means. The company that owns the digital music player market can, in my opinion, do a lot better. And what about the Apple multimedia keyboard to die for? I’m wondering.

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