Apple’s Magic Trackpad looks like an optional peripheral for now, but it’s much more than that. It’s several nails in the mouse’s coffin. It may even be a stake through its heart.
Apple’s intent for the Magic Trackpad is clear: it’s a replacement for the mouse that brings multitouch gestures to the desktop. As more and more people use multitouch on their mobile devices, it’ll become more natural to use them on the desktop also.
Doug Engelbart invented the mouse, but Apple’s first Macintosh brought it to market and popularized it. And now, after more than 26 years as the primary UI device for desktops, Apple is beginning to phase it out. The success of Apple’s iOS platform, which uses multitouch as its primary interface, shows the path of Apple’s trajectory — it’s multitouch all the way.
Apple has already begun this transition: first with multitouch trackpads on MacBook laptops, followed by the Magic Mouse, which adds multitouch gestures to its top surface.
For now, Apple is somewhat shy about the Magic Trackpad’s ambitions. “Use it in place of a mouse or in conjunction with one on any Mac computer,” says the Magic Trackpad product page.
But in 2011, and maybe even sooner, the Magic Trackpad will be an optional replacement for the mouse when you buy a new iMac or other desktop. Perhaps by then it will have replaced the mouse entirely.
Apple can’t make the switch suddenly; it can’t just start shipping trackpads with every desktop instead of mice. It first has to train customers how to use it. Apple is very mindful of such considerations. Remember how Steve Jobs and Apple’s iPad ads reinforce the notion that people already know how to use the iPad, thanks to the iPhone, even though the iPad is brand new.
So it’s an optional peripheral for now, but it will probably be included in the box in a year from now. Perhaps it will take longer; after all, the mouse has been around for 26 years. Will Apple start giving them away to schools, to train new users?
The iOS has already trained people to use multitouch instead of a mouse. The issue with the Magic Trackpad is that it’s still shackled with the abstraction of a pointer; however, it’s close enough to iOS to enable intuitive user input, and that alone means I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t eventually replace the mouse.
TechRadar: Apple declares that the mouse is dead