Turning 30, Microsoft mouse meets maker's new interface

Will the Microsoft mouse go the way of the horse and buggy? No, but it will become less central to the computing experience.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read
The end of an era? With Windows 8, Microsoft is, if not marginalizing the mouse, certainly making the mouse less pivotal
The end of an era? With Windows 8, Microsoft is, if not marginalizing the mouse, certainly making the mouse less pivotal. Microsoft

No, the Microsoft mouse isn't dead. But it is facing its biggest challenge yet from its creator, as Microsoft goes Metro.

First let's look at what Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows Division at Microsoft, said this week in Barcelona when he introduced the Consumer Preview of Windows 8.

"The Microsoft mouse this week turns 30 years old. It's hard to imagine not having a mouse, yet when they came out they were relatively controversial...[and] you couldn't find [at that time] a place to put it on your desk."

Sinofsky continued, mocking (in a lighthearted way, of course) the person that might resist the idea of using a touch screen today--thirty years later--on his or her desktop.

"'Oh, I'm never going to sit here and hold my arm straight out,'" he said. But people will adjust. "So when you see a PC like this (a touch-screen PC) don't think of it fitting into the world you have now," he said.

Microsoft's Michael Angiulo demonstrating a touch-screen desktop PC.
Microsoft's Michael Angiulo demonstrating a touch-screen desktop PC. Microsoft

Sinofsky goes on to say that users will switch back to the mouse and physical keyboard when necessary, but Microsoft obviously recognizes, and will begin to promote, the finger-driven interface that is Metro.

For me (as for a lot of people), the mouse paradigm gets creakier by the month, with increased use of my iPad, Motorola Xyboard tablet, and iPhone. So, Sinofsky is just stating the inevitable. As people actively wean themselves off the mouse, tasks that seemed unwieldy and inefficient at first (with touch), become less so over time.

And as I said at the top (stating the obvious), the mouse won't go away. Its precision still makes it essential for many tasks.

But the proverbial writing is on the wall. Here's what Nathan Brookwood--principal analyst at Insight 64 and longtime Silicon Valley sage--said about the change as Microsoft is implementing it.

"It can't be soon enough. Touch was Microsoft's target with Metro. The traditional nontouch peripheral was an afterthought," he said.

Then my question is, is this progress for most people? Or is a new paradigm being foisted on the unsuspecting consumer? I've already stated my opinion but would be interested to hear what readers think.