Apple’s Magic Mouse – Elegant, Functional, Unusable

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It would be all too easy to sprinkle prestidigitation metaphors throughout an article on Apple’s new Magic Mouse. References to “disappearing” buttons, “amazing” design are obvious. So lets get straight to the point, clear and simple. Apple has created a mouse so perfect that it is unusable. Ok, so much for clarity.

This may be Apple’s most elegant current product. The compound curves of plastic, aluminum and space converge at each edge with a beauty and precision unparalleled in consumer electronic devices. The technology of touch is integrated is a uniquely usable fashion. All pre-purchase doubts about a touchpad mouse dissolved within minutes of use. Scrolling, swiping and sliding quickly become second nature. The low-profile is challenging at first, and require some getting-used-to time. The utility this mouse provides would make it worth the effort, if not for one fatal flaw.

miceThe Magic Mouse places it’s optical sensor in an unusual place. In use, it falls right under the fingertips. Logically this would seem to be the ideal spot for a device used for pointing. This location was never possible with rubber ball mice. The size of the track ball required the point of control to fall deeper in the palm. When optical mice swept through the industry replacing ball mice, they simply mimicked the same positioning.

The control point of my current mouse (Macally IceMouse) is right under my first knuckle. The Magic Mouse moves that point more than an inch further from the palm. This small shift is enough to completely change every gesture my muscle memory has been imbedding for the last two decades. In particular, side-to-side motions, fulcrumed from the wrist, are magnified dramatically and would require relearning as much slighter motions.

Perhaps a secondary preference control could allow a separate tracking setting for smaller side motions. Until then, the retraining required for using the Magic Mouse would be comparable to relearning to draw left-handed.

As president of Tracy Evans Productions, Inc. for over 18 years Tracy splits his time between being an animator, director, producer, stage magician, graphic designer, art director, programmer, editor, consultant, speaker and writer of third-person autobiographical blurbs.

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