Apple’s New Click Wheel Mouse

2004 – If our usually reliable sources are to be believed, Steve Jobs has finally relented. After the stunning success of the iPod, Jobs now agrees that users may be able to handle more than a single button on a mouse.

The Rumor Mill

In 20 years of selling Macs, Apple has never sold a multi-button mouse, although they are in common use everywhere else in the computer industry. The revolutionary new Click Wheel Mouse™ (too bad Macally already owns the iMouse name) will go beyond anything any current mouse offers.

Not More, Better

iPod miniInstead of two or three buttons up front, a scroll wheel, and one or two thumb buttons of most contemporary mice, the Click Wheel Mouse (hereafter CWM) is much more elegant. It shares the lozenge shape of the current Pro Mouse, but instead of the entire mouse being a button, Apple engineers have integrated the click wheel technology used in current iPods to create a multifunction controller where the traditional single mouse button went.

The button at the center of the click wheel is used just like a traditional mouse button, and users can move their fingers around the wheel itself to scroll up and down – just as the iPod’s wheel lets users navigate menus.

The creative genius of the CWM is the four click buttons incorporated into the wheel, which can be used to scroll up, down, right, or left in the current window by default – or programmed in the new Mouse system preference to move a single cell within a spreadsheet or perhaps a single pixel in a graphics program.

Or they can be programmed to do pretty much anything you can do with a mouse or keyboard, and users will be able to specify different functions for each program they use. In a browser, perhaps the “up” button would be set to “home” instead of “page up” – except for the mouse button in the center, the CWM can be completely software controlled.

Unlike many modern mice, the CWM is neither right- nor left-handed.

The CWM will be available in both USB and Bluetooth versions, and it will only be available as an accessory. Apple will not bundle the new mouse with any current computer.

What Next?

Steve Jobs has often looked to past success to find a model for the future. The original iMac was based on the all-in-one design practically perfected with the earliest Macs, but with a 15″ color display instead of a tiny 9″ b&w one. The success of the iPod (and the failure of the display-on-a-ball iMac to sell as well as the original) inspired the G5 iMac. And now the iPod inspires a mouse.

What next, a compact, affordable modular Mac to repeat the success of the Quadra 630, compete with low-end Windows PCs, and bring OS X, the iApps, and Apple AV technology (the 630 supported a TV tuner!) to the masses?

Nah, never happen. Apple really doesn’t want to increase unit sales, let alone market share, or they would have done that years ago.

– Anne Onymus