Apple's Magic Trackpad: Mouse Killer or Pointless Device?

Apple's Magic TrackPad: Mouse Killer or Pointless Device?

Apple announced a bunch of products this morning, including more potent Mac Pros, iMacs with new processors, an a 27-inch Cinema Display. But the most intriguing new item is the smallest and cheapest one: the $69 Magic Trackpad. Rumored for months, it brings the multi-touch design and integrated button to an oversized, standalone wireless Bluetooth model designed to look good sitting next to Apple’s wireless keyboard.

(Apple says that the Magic Trackpad is for Macs only; I wonder if anyone will figure out how to make it work with Windows, or if the company would consider a PC-friendly model?)

I rarely use desktop computers these days, but I like the idea: I’m not exactly anti-mouse, but mice take up a lot of space, have a nasty habit of colliding with papers and other items, and are sometimes hostile to southpaws like me. Which is why I’m at least as likely to use a trackball as a mouse when I am at a desk.

Come to think of it, there was also a period way back in the nineties when I used one of Cirque’s standalone touchpads with my work desktop. Cirque still makes them, so there’s a market there–but it seems to be a small one.

Apple’s spin on the idea looks way more appealing than Cirque’s: The Magic Trackpad is larger, wireless, multi-touch, buttonless, and more stylish. Will a meaningful percentage of iMac and Mac Pro owners choose one over a mouse? I don’t have a clue, but I’m curious. Touchpads have been the dominant integrated pointing devices on laptops for a decade and a half, but I know plenty of people who still aren’t fans: They travel with mice–including miniature ones which look kinda clumsy to me–rather than be forced to use a touchpad.

Of course, if Apple wants to actively advocate for touchpads rather than simply offer them as an option, there’s a radical step it could take: making the Magic Trackpad the default pointing device it ships with iMacs and Mac Pros. It’s not doing that–in fact, as far as I can tell, you can’t even order a custom-configured Mac that comes with a Magic Trackpad but no mouse. (You can get one that comes with a mouse and a touchpad.)

I’d be perfectly happy to buy an iMac that came only with a touchpad–although, oddly enough, I’d prefer a corded USB one over one whose batteries I needed to worry about. (Speaking of which, Apple also introduced a $29 AA battery recharger today.) How about you?

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