Apple Mighty Mouse

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August is generally a pretty quiet month in the tech world, when hot holiday items are put on ships overseas to begin their long ocean voyages to the United States. For that reason, it's also a time when I like to take vacation, so I was caught off-guard when Apple introduced an innovative accessory in my absence.

Mighty Mouse—whose packaging contains an acknowledgement to the Viacom-copyrighted super-rodent of the same name —is Apple's first two-button, scrolling mouse. For Mac users, this whole thing probably seems confusing—clicking and dragging seems to have gotten them far enough. For those reared on Windows, the absence of a right-click option and an inability to roll pages up and down are probably just as dumbfounding.

As someone used to ambidextrous computing—a Windows machine on my right and a Mac to my left—I have been using two-button scroll-wheel mice on both systems for years. In Mac OS 9 (and perhaps even earlier), the act of clicking while holding down the control key for contextual pop-up menus could be duplicated by right-clicking a USB-connected Windows mouse. That feature has been around so long it's a wonder Apple didn't launch a two-button mouse years back.

For me, a mouse must have the two principal buttons, the scroll wheel and a "back" button for speedier web surfing. (Turns out, "forward" buttons is not in terribly high demand, which makes sense if you think about it.) Mighty Mouse's side buttons, pressed individually or in tandem, can be customized to launch Exposť, Dashboard, the Application Switcher, Spotlight, or any application of your choice. Still, the side buttons cannot be assigned something as basic as a "back" feature, a.k.a. command-left-arrow.

My other complaint about the Mighty Mouse is that it's not wireless. Since Apple itself sells a nice wireless mouse, and since most mouse makers have found ways to add tons of features without diminishing battery life, there really isn't any good reason why Apple didn't cut the cord this time. To the company's credit, they didn't try to give me a half-baked excuse. Will a wireless one eventually roll out? Presumably, but you never ever can tell.

The mouse does have some nifty technology. Its scroll wheel is actually more of a track ball, capable of wiggling a page both up and down and side to side in a fairly fluid motion. Other mouse makers have clunkier separate controls rather than a smooth combined one. Also, touch sensitivity means that the mouse simply knows what you meant right click or middle click or left click. There's no need for separate buttons handling each click.

Gadgety goodness aside, this is more of a Mediocre Mouse than a Mighty one, especially sitting on my desk next to the Logitech MX1000 10-button wireless laser mouse with lithium-ion battery that I connected to the Mac about six months ago and likely won't disconnect anytime soon.