The Round Mouse That Could Have Been

Life was simple when the iMac came in only one color, Bondi blue. The computer, keyboard, and mouse were all trimmed in Bondi blue and looked great together. Third party manufacturers could come close enough to Apple’s color to look good as well.

And then Apple changed everything with Macs in different colors.

The Rumor Mill

5 iMac colorsApple chose to launch the Revision C iMac in five fruity flavors: lime, orange, blueberry, strawberry, and grape. And each new iMac shipped with a keyboard and mouse with matching trim. Everything looked wonderful, but some Apple employees wanted a simpler solution.

Instead of the expense of building mice and keyboards in five different colors, a couple members of the design team really did think different and proposed an alternative solution that would be especially attractive to those who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. But Apple would have to drop one color for it to work.

As far as we know, the team never built a prototype, but they did have some visual mock-ups, such as the one snuck out of Apple’s design workshop and shown here.

The 4-color Simon-inspired mouse would not have used black plastic; it would use translucent white like the iMac and its accessories. But it would incorporate all four iMac colors, assuming they could convince Steve Jobs to eliminate one iMac color.

Jobs had a fit, and not because it meant ditching one of the five fruity flavors. No, Steve Jobs had been convinced from the beginning that a one-button mouse was perfect in simplicity and ease-of-use, and what he saw was a four-button mouse being proposed, he immediately nixed the idea.

You have to wonder what could have come of it. What if you could also put the mouse in game mode and play Simon on it? It might have sold well in Toys R Us and other toy and game shops.

We’ll never know what could have been. Because Steve Jobs refused to think different about the number of mouse buttons, the Simon mouse never saw the light of day.

 – Anne Onymus

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