Microsoft mouse. (cursor control device) (Product Announcement)
by Keith Ferrell
It's no small thing to redesign an input device, especially one with more than 60 million users worldwide. Yet that's precisely what Microsoft has done with its new mouse. In doing so, the mouse design team addressed many questions that may not have occurred to users, and added features which, in retrospect, are natural and quickly become indispensable.
First things first: The new mouse looks different. For one thing, it's a bit larger and longer than its predecessor. More importantly, it has a shape. Gone is the familiar bar-of-soap design, replaced by a device with a graceful curve along its left side. Microsoft's mouse remains a two-button device, although the buttons are larger than on the classic mouse.
At first glance, the new shape may seem off-putting. My initial reaction was that the mouse was too large, that I would have to retrain my hand after years of using a classic mouse. The retraining took all of ten minutes. The curved shape makes the mouse fit the hand more comfortably, and its recentered weight helps it move more easily. None of this should be too surprising: The curve--indeed, every aspect of the device--is the result of intensive research into hand anatomy, postures and ergonomics. Believe me, Microsoft knows hands!
Hands of all types, actually. Despite the curve's location on the left side of the mouse, the device is designed to work well for either right- or left-handed users. Its size may make the mouse a bit difficult for small children, but it should be fine for teenagers on up.
Other hardware features worth noting include a new, heavier cable, one that's less likely to kink. The center of gravity and the balance for the mouse are noticeably improved, and the tracking ball rolls more smoothly.
As important as the hardware is the software, and it's here that the mouse shines most brightly. Many of the driver innovations are not only common sense, but also most welcome. A good example is the new "snap-to" feature, which automatically directs the cursor to the screen's default button.
Perhaps my favorite feature is the screen wrap. At last! Now, when you move the cursor off one side of the screen, it appears on the opposite side. A magnifier enables you to enlarge sections of the screen for closer examination, while another feature relocates the cursor at the center of the screen should it get lost.
After you get over the initial surprise of the mouse's new shape, you can see how sensible--even conservative--most of Microsoft's decisions are. Yet it's tough to see what's been left out, unless it would be a completely wireless version. (It would be nice, upon reflection, to have the mouse available in more colors than Microsoft white, but that's less a design than a marketing criterion.) The mouse will, after the keyboard, remain the most important interface device for some time to come, and there's little doubt in my mind that Microsoft's new mouse represents an evolution, and a worthwhile evolution, in this device's usefulness and practicality.