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September 7, 2011
Here’s something fun out of Redmond. Microsoft has launched a line of touch-based mice. I think it has to do with Windows 8’s Metro interface, but Microsoft said the new line was developed to add productivity-based multitouch gestures. Is there more to this simple hardware launch? Here’s a quick reality check on the Microsoft Touch Mouse …
Seemingly behind the curve, Microsoft has decided to finally release the “Microsoft Touch Mouse,” which — unlike users of Apple’s Magic Mouse on Windows — fully supports Windows 7. Gestures include swipes to minimize and maximize screens and 360-degree scrolling. Microsoft has also added a touch ‘thumb’ area, where a user can ‘thumb’ through running applications.
Realistically, Windows 7 doesn’t need a multitouch touch mouse. It’s a novelty, because it’s an afterthought. If you look at the features of Mac OS X Lion, you can tell Apple deliberately built the idea of multitouch into the operating system.
However, look into the near future and it’s clear Microsoft has multitouch ambitions with Windows 8. So why release the mouse now? Maybe it’s just exposure, but maybe it’s to get the masses of Microsoft lovers used to the idea of multitouch.
Microsoft has taken the task of developing Windows 8 quite seriously, including launching the Building Windows 8 Blog to add transparency to the development of its next big operating system. Last week, I pointed to a blog post that discussed a “no compromise” approach to developing Metro alongside the regular Windows desktop and said Microsoft should really abandon the Windows desktop if it wants to build something groundbreaking (i.e. make Metro popular). But for any Windows 8 Metro adoption to occur, Microsoft needs a way for users to interact with Metro that isn’t clumsy. Clicking through a multitouch interface isn’t fun, and not everyone will have an all-in-one touch-screen computer. So, a multitouch mouse is the next best thing.
Microsoft described in the press release how two years of research and prototyping brought the company to this very mouse. Rewind to October 2009, and Apple had already launched its Magic Mouse, which was followed by the Magic Trackpad in July 2010. Microsoft noted in the release that capacitive multitouch was finally chosen as the best solution, and meanwhile every major touch-screen phone — including Windows Phone 7 — and Apple touch-related product have used capacitive multitouch for quite a while.
I don’t pretend to understand Microsoft’s strategy, if there is one, but outside of a native Windows 8 interface, this technology “launch” is really a sign that Microsoft is playing catch up in a market in which it’s slowly losing ground.
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