Competition, Innovation & the Infinite Button Mouse

I recently placed an order for a new Apple MacBook, just because I wanted one.  I had no need for a new one, the one I have is just fine (well, hard drive could be bigger).  I bought it because Apple’s great product marketing and customer focus MAKES me want to buy one…

Aluminum case, its why I wanted to upgrade to a MacBook Pro, and now I don’t have to!  I wanted a backlit keyboard (another Pro exclusive item) and now I get one on the MacBook.  I do spend some time doing work on photos, and the much more ‘Pro-like’ NVIDIA 9400M graphics, gets me most of the way there!

Well, all that stuff is cool, but more evolutionary than innovative.  That brings me to the “Multi-touch track pad.”  Well, almost…

Wow, I dislike -no HATE- Microsoft products because with every iteration they ask for more from me (money for more memory, more disk space, more processing power) to get very little in return in the way of more productivity, more user-friendliness, or innovation.

For ‘innovation’, Microsoft took the Apple one button mouse and <GASP!> added another button, they figured they could just keep cranking out the same ‘innovation’ the same way that Gillette adds an extra blade every couple of years.  Add a click wheel, 5 more buttons, a few more axes of motion, and… I have so many buttons that I can’t even remember what they mean.  Also, when I am traveling, I would have to either take along my massive multi-function mouse, or deal with a much more compact and button impoverished compact mouse.

Thank goodness that Apple didn’t actually die in the late 90’s like many of us expected them to.  I have to give some credit to Microsoft for this, as their infusion of about $600M into Apple to get them out of the anti-trust hot water that their Internet Explorer escapades got them into, helped Apple weather the Steve Job-less storm long enough to regain their focus on their key customer base:  people who like to use computers for all the cool things that they do, but don’t really want to frig around with how they work.  The innovation that Apple brings to the table is GREAT for the customer!

So, how do you get all the functionality of the infinite-button mouse without the complexity, memory skills and bulk?  You innovate on the nature of the interface itself.  Apple has proved that it can take the touch screen to a while new level with the iPhone and iTouch, it is now extending this multi-touch technology to the new line of laptops.  By having this interface always available on the large multi-touch pad of the laptop, it is worth the effort (little as it is) to learn the intuitive new interface which can take advantage of gestures using one, two, three and even four fingers.  I will talk a bit more about it once I have had some time with my laptop (still in transit from Shanghai via Anchorage, Memphis, and ??) and give you my impressions.

So in summary, the resurgence of Apple, whether you are a fan or not, is a great thing for the consumer in terms of the innovative new features that challenge all of the other OS and PC makers!


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