Remember how once in a while, as kids, we'd have to detach the back panel of the mouse to clean up the dirt lodged around the ball inside? Optical mice that worked on LEDs or lasers were the hippest things two years from then. And in the last couple of years, most manufacturers have come out with sleek-looking wireless mice that let you have a ‘long-distance' relationship with your PC or laptop.
The next step in the evolution of these peripherals seems to be the same way as it has been with gadgets – the introduction of touch interface.
The first of its kind to capture public imagination was the Magic Mouse by Apple. The next to follow is the Microsoft's Touch Mouse which we had over for a test. In the box is a complicatedly docked mouse (with the back cover stored separately), a set of batteries to get you started and a Bluetooth dongle or what Microsoft calls the ‘Nano Transceiver'.
Setting up the system is as easy as with any other Bluetooth-enabled peripheral. Subtle, tactile crosses on the surface of the mouse indicate the touch-enabled surface, so it's easy to know whether you are swiping across the right part or not. Microsoft said that the software drivers are automatically updated when you plug in the transceiver (provided your PC is connected to the web). This, however, didn't work with the unit we had and we had to download a 20MB driver installation file from Microsoft's website.
The touch sensitive area on the mouse was responsive, letting me scroll up and down or pan sideways across a website or document with ease.
Minimising and maximising windows requires two-finger swipes. Navigating web pages also took little effort as I could flick my thumb to the right or the left to move on to the next web page or the previous one. The multi-touch gestures supported by the mouse also includes a preview of all windows that you have open on the system with a three-finger upwards swipe, somewhat similar to the Mac's Mission Control.
The Touch Mouse comes with Microsoft's proprietary BlueTrack technology that was first incorporated in its line of peripherals almost three years ago. The technology lets you track the mouse over non-traditional surfaces say like that that of a granite countertop or the living room carpet. I tried using it on my new pair of denims and it seemed to adapt quite well.
The Bluetooth dongle can be neatly stowed in the Touch Mouse when you're wrapping up.
Microsoft has designed the mouse to “enhance Windows 7 navigation”. This unfortunately means that the mouse's touch gestures will not work on any other OS or older version of Windows (strangely, this list includes Windows 7 Starter too). However, those of you who need to accessorise their Windows 7 PC or laptop can make the best out of Microsoft's very capable answer to the Magic Mouse.