Some Apple Pointers

July 28, 2010 9:47 AM

I have a theory about Apple. Like all good Apple theories it superficially fits the facts, is an entertaining mental exercise but is probably wrong.

Apple does not believe in mice.

For a company that excels at hardware design, the mice they’ve released since the return of Steve Jobs stick out in their catalogue like sore thumbs.

The hockey puck mouse from the original iMac was clunky and uncomfortable. The Pro Mouse was smooth and comfortable if bare-bones and uninspiring, but every first-time user had to have the “it’s all one button” design explained to them. Every feature of the Mighty Mouse (accidental-squeeze-buttons, gungy trackball, easily confused click-surface) was broken. The Magic Mouse felt like a promising tech demo that escaped the lab too early. And now Apple have released a multi-touch trackpad.

I’m sure I’m not alone in that the first thing I do when I buy a new desktop Mac is replace the mouse, although my current choice in pointing device may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

My theory is that someone high up in Apple’s hardware design pecking order, maybe Jobs, maybe Ive, maybe their whole hardware brains trust, does not believe in the mouse. Sure it works, but it’s not the right way to solve the problem of manipulating things on-screen. It’s indirect and unintuitive. It tends to sprout more and more buttons. It’s just... wrong!

You could hear it in Jobs’ voice when he introduced the iPad, extolling the joys of having the web “at your fingertips”. There’s no place in Apple's world view for clumsy intermediaries like mice or styluses. There must be a better way! But for the life of them, these visionaries, designers and engineers can’t work out what that better way is for your desktop PC.

Typically when Apple find themselves in this situation, they sit on the problem until they have a solution. That’s why we waited so long for the iPhone and iPad and why we were so blown away when they were finally released. With pointing devices, they don’t have the luxury of procrastination.

You can’t make a great product if you don't believe in it, but you can’t sell a computer without a mouse.

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