For the past decade or so I’ve maintained that Microsoft should drop their useless software side and focus on what they do best: hardware. I’m having a hard time admitting it, but much of the hardware Microsoft puts out is actually pretty good. I loved the original 1995 Microsoft Natural Keyboard, and their first sausage-shaped mouse wasn’t too bad either.
Looks like they’ve done something good again. The Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 looks very promising. There are currently very few mice on the market with bluetooth connectivity and laser tracking instead of traditional optical. It seems that Logitech had a BT version of the MX1000, although I’m not sure if it was ever sold outside the MX5000 keyboard and mouse combo. In any case, that’s been discontinued.
I’m surprised there are so few bluetooth mice out there. Targus has one or two, as does Kensington. Logitech has its V270, and Microsoft’s old Intellimouse Explorer with bluetooth has recently been discontinued. There are a few others, such as the Bluetake, and Apple has its pretty but otherwise mediocre wireless Mighty Mouse. Only the Apple is laser-based.
Sure, proprietary wireless solutions may be appealing to the hardware vendors. They may be cheaper, even if you have to include the USB dongle. They are also less power-hungry; some of the latest mice claim battery lives of up to a year. But isn’t this exactly what bluetooth was designed to do? I for one would really like to avoid yet another USB device when my laptop has a built-in bluetooth interface.
So, Microsoft’s latest offering seems interesting, and I’d really like to take a look at it once it comes out in October. Naturally the mouse has a plethora of more or less useless extra features. For example, it has a few buttons at the bottom for controlling multimedia applications. These can also be used for presentations, which should be good news for anyone currently carrying a wireless presentation controller. The mouse also has a laser pointer, again probably to replace a wireless presenter.
The most confusing feature, though, seems to be what Microsoft calls “digital ink” in their press release. This feature apparently “lets users draw on the screen during presentations to highlight a key point.” I’ve done some investigative work and I think I can guess what they’re talking about. They seem to have stolen the idea from
D. R. Olsen and T. Nielsen (2001). Laser pointer interaction. Proc. ACM CHI 2001 Conf. on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 17-22.
I looked the paper up and it’s about a video camera looking at a projector screen in order to read the laser pointer position as mouse input. Fair enough, but is this really a feature of the mouse?
And another thing. I know Microsoft is mainly designing all the hardware to complement their OS, but do they really have to mix hardware and software features in their product descriptions? It’s not the mouse that lets you zoom in, it’s the piece of software that associates the mouse button with a particular action. What I’d really want to know is, how are the different buttons and wheels and tilts converted to button actions, so I can get it mapped correctly under Linux.
I really wish Microsoft paid more attention to us Linux users!