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Apple's mouse goes Mighty

Here it comes to save the day: Multibutton device lets people scroll vertically, horizontally and even diagonally. Photos: Mighty Mouse

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
3 min read
Breaking with longstanding tradition, Apple Computer has introduced its first multibutton mouse for the Mac.

Dubbed Mighty Mouse, the new $49 pointer has a 360-degree scroll wheel and can be programmed to recognize a click on either the left or right side. For Apple purists, it can also act as a single-button mouse.

Multibutton mice have been standard on Windows PCs for years and even the Mac OS has long recognized a right click. However, the company has stuck by its single-button design, refining it and adding a Bluetooth wireless version, but maintaining only a single-click option.

David Moody, Apple's vice president of Mac product marketing, said the company waited until it was able to design a mouse that had the scrolling and multiple-button features but was still as simple to use as the one-click original.

"There's lots and lots of multibutton mice on the market but they come with some complexity," Moody said. "We just weren't willing to compromise on design or ease of use."

The design itself is similar to that of the current Mac mouse, with the white plastic case not immediately revealing itself to have multiple buttons. Touch sensors, rather than actual buttons, can detect a right or left click. As for the other changes, the small trackball peeks out the top, and two other, slightly grayish buttons can be squeezed on the side of the mouse. The side buttons can be programmed to get one-click access to 10.4.2 Tiger operating system features such as Spotlight and Dashboard, the company said.

Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with current CEO Steve Jobs, said he has been a fan of the most recent generation of Apple mice but hopes the new pointer will offer top-notch two-dimensional scrolling. "This new one is similarly styled so I'll be pleased regardless," he said in an e-mail interview.

Wozniak said he has appreciated the two-finger scrolling option on the Mac's latest trackpads, so he imagines he will like the scroll wheel. "But I'm in a normal user try-and-see mode," he said. "If they have it in the store yet maybe I'll pick one up."

Taking advantage of all of the features of the Mighty Mouse requires the latest version of Mac OS X Tiger, though it will work as a two-button scrolling mouse on older Mac versions, as well as Windows XP and Windows 2000.

The new mouse, which is of the USB-corded variety, debuted Tuesday and is available immediately. For now, it comes only as an add-on, though Apple could make the new Mighty Mouse a standard with future Macs.

A mouse has been standard fare with all desktop Macs since the original debuted in 1984. The earliest Mac mice were beige and had a single large button in the center. Around the time of the candy-colored iMacs, Apple added a round mouse that was quickly dubbed the "hockey puck" and drew criticism for being decidedly un-ergonomic.

In July 2000, Apple replaced the oft-criticized hockey puck mouse with the design that has shipped for the past five years--a clear and black mouse (later also clear and white) in which the whole mouse is pushed down to create a single click. Apple took the mouse wireless in September 2003, when it introduced a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard.

The history of the computer mouse dates back to the 1950s and an engineer named Doug Engelbart. The notion traveled through NASA and Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center before ending up--very successfully--in Apple's hands.

For those who remember another Mighty Mouse, Apple did in fact license the name from Viacom Consumer Products, owner of the rights to the cartoon hero.