Largely overlooked amid the overwhelming iPad hype is its biggest potential achievement. Apple's touch-screen quasi-PC may have finally struck a fatal blow to the long-standing king of input devices, the computer mouse.
Make no mistake about it, the era of the familiar PC mouse is coming to an end. It may not be a 2012-style apocalypse (and the mouse will surely hang on in some form for many years to come), but the door is slowly shutting on the universal acceptance of this single iconic piece of hardware that we have equated with personal computing for decades (for argument's sake, let's agree to date its lifespan from the 1972 invention of the ball mouse, and its use as a consumer device from the 1981 Xerox Star). Replacing it is an array of touch input devices and icon-focused operating systems that are built (not always for the better) around expediency over flexibility.
Long before the iPad, touch-screen tablet PCs had been around for years, occasionally enjoying a brief surge in consumer interest, and then fading away again, as users discovered that touch navigation was not really ready for prime time. Apple's iPhone, and later the iPod Touch, changed all that, bringing actual one-to-one touch to the masses for the first time.
But on the PC side, this only made the sluggish, temperamental touch screens found on most tablets even more glaringly obvious; we frequently described these devices as having a rubber-band effect. You'd drag a finger across the screen to move an icon, and it would follow behind by half a beat, as if on the end of a rubber band. The takeway was that touch was workable on tiny handhelds, but not well-suited to larger laptop screens.
The iPad's disruptive success in building a larger touch environment that has received almost universal praise puts the lie to that theory. It may not be as productivity friendly as your ThinkPad, but add a Bluetooth keyboard and Apple's iWork apps, and you've got a reasonable approximation of a laptop experience in many cases.
But even before the iPad, PCs that traded the mouse for a fingertip have been making significant strides. HP has led the way with its TouchSmart lineof all-in-one desktops and convertible tablet laptops. Again, the experience wasn't entirely seamless, but each successive generation of these systems has seen further refinement of their specialized touch interfaces, which sit on top of Windows, hiding the mouse-driven desktop from view. Asus also did an decent job with the custom interface on the Eee PC T91, a touch-screen version of the popular Eee PC Netbook (despite that system's other flaws).… Read more
It qualifies as one of the major annoyances of notebook-computer users: inadvertently moving the cursor by brushing against the touch pad while typing. One person I know actually taped a business card over his laptop's touch pad. Well, what the technique lacks in elegance it makes up for in simplicity.
But what if you want to disable your touch pad only when you have a mouse or other input device plugged in? That's my situation. When I'm using my laptop at a desk or other semipermanent location, I plug in a USB tablet to give me more … Read more
These two keyboards from the input kings at Adesso combine the functionality of a desktop keyboard with the scrolling power of a laptop touchpad. Both keyboards feature a built-in Cirque two-button touchpad meant to take the place of your mouse and clean up your desktop.
While we were a little hesitant to accept a touchpad instead of a point-and-click mouse, the Adesso touchpad is actually very intuitive to use. First, you can easily activate vertical and horizontal scrolling simply by swiping your finger along the edge of the square, and the GlideExtend feature gives you three seconds to reposition your … Read more
No, this isn't a picture of a laptop busted in two, though we've certainly had occasion to take such photos in the past due to either clumsiness or blue-screen rage. This is actually a wireless keyboard from Japan's Sanwa that has a touchpad like the one on your laptop, seen on Akihabara News.
Why? We have no idea, other than to cater to those folks who just hate using a mouse for some reason. (Samsung has apparently identified that niche as well.) Sanwa also makes a corded version, if you're really particular about keyboards. Personally, we'… Read more
This one definitely falls under the category of What Took Them So Long? Universal remotes have claimed (dubiously) to do everything under the sun, but they've gotten increasingly difficult to use by cramming in more keys and buttons, not to mention indecipherable commands.
Sharp has responded to that frustration with "the world's first remote controller with a touchpad," according to Gearfuse, for its updated line of Aquos TV-PCs. The design overhaul means 40 percent fewer buttons and computer-like navigation on the remote.
The new products appear to be available only in Japan for now, but we'… Read more
With so many concerns about the ergonomics of the mouse, why not just remove it altogether? After all, laptops and their touchpads have done just fine without them. Sweden's Mousetrapper Nordic apparently shares this philosophy, which is why it designed the "Mousetrapper Advance."
It's described on TechShout as a "unique electronic pointing device" and a "multi-dimensional steering pad," but to us it looks like a laptop-style touchpad built into a wrist rest. Marketing-speak aside, it could still be a good idea for RSI sufferers. For our part, we're sticking with the &… Read more