Steve Jobs Cannot Design A Mouse

Over the weekend I began reading Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney which has given me an insight into the control-freak that is Steve Jobs. Take the design of the mouse for the first Mac computer:

“Jobs paid close attention to every detail. Even the mouse was designed to reflect the shape of the computer: it has the same dimensions, and its single square button corresponds to the shape and placement of the screen.”

Macintosh SE and the ADB mouse were designed with the same proportions in mind.

Fast forward 24 years and when I go to use the Mighty Mouse connected to my fiance’s 24″ iMac I find the scrollball unwilling to scroll down. The gray nipple-like scroll mechanism might have been good on paper but after just a year of normal, everyday use the thing becomes flaky and useless. About every other week I need to flip the mouse upside down and rub the scroll ball vigorously along the length of my finger to restore functionality (video demonstration). In extreme cases when that doesn’t work I apply a dab of rubbing alcohol on the ball and gently turn the ball around in all possible directions to scrub the runners clean. Some people have even taken the Mighty Mouse apart in order to clean it. Since Apple’s products have won numerous industrial design awards, it escapes me how the mouse has been so neglected considering it is one of the most frequently used input devices on a computer.

The Mighty Mouse wasn’t the first unsuccessful mouse released by the Cupertino company. In 1998 to coincide the release of the first iMac, Apple created the USB Mouse which became known as the “hockey puck”. While considered stylish with it’s translucent colors and circular design the USB mouse was actually very uncomfortable to use. Third parties released USB to ADB converters so people could use the older, more comfortable Apple mouses with their new iMac computers. There was even an adaptive shell called the iCatch which elongated the circular mouse making it more comfortable to hold and similar looking to the old Desktop Mouse II.

The Apple USB mouse that came with new iMacs looked and felt like a hockey puck.

So while Apple dared to be different by making computers that were easy to use while being gorgeous to look at, their mice could never compare. But on the other hand the trackpads on Apple’s new MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops are marvelously responsive and a joy to use. Apple is at the top of it’s game when it comes to user inputs on non-desktop products. Perhaps Steve Jobs should ditch the whole mouse concept and bundle his desktops with a USB powered trackpad. That would certainly be better than licensing the trademark of a popular cartoon series to tack on to a crappy product.

Finger gestures make using an Apple laptop easy.

P.S. I had to “clean” the trackball 3 times while writing this blog post.

Steve Jobs Announces New iMac

… 10 years ago today!

That’s right today is the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the iMac. Check out Steve Jobs sporting a suit instead of his trademark jeans and a black turtleneck. This also marks the 10th anniversary of that god-awful hockey puck mouse which solidifies the fact that Apple can’t make a good mouse.

Take a look at that “screaming” 233mhz iMac that comes with a whopping 32MB of RAM. Watching old keynote speeches sure is amusing as technology just keeps on progressing.

(via Crunchgear)

And The Point Of Safari For Windows Is…

The special Apple event announcing the iPhone SDK has come and gone. While lots of exciting developments were announced we are still clueless about the purpose of Safari for Windows.

On June 11th, 2007, Steve Jobs announced Safari will have the same features on Vista and XP as on Apple’s flagship OSX operating system. Apple’s official reason for the expansion was to increase the market share of the browser but the blogosphere hinted at something bigger up Steve’s sleeve.

Many thought the browser would become an integral component of developing applications for the iPhone. But as we saw last Thursday, that proved not to be the case. So what is the real point of moving Safari to Windows?

Now that Apple moved to the Intel platform porting applications to Windows requires a whole lot less work. And if Apple has compatible code for the PC platform it would be foolish not to put it out there to test new water with it’s niche web browser. It’s hard to fathom why anyone would choose Safari over Firefox, the massively popular open-source browser that includes a host of user created add-ons. In fact it is those add-ons that keep me tied to the Firefox browser, helping me do my job as a web developer. And most web surfers who aren’t savvy to the other browsers out there will be contempt with the default Internet Explorer. After all, Safari is a pruned down, no frills browser that is a hard sell on features alone. The performance and speed of Safari are certainly ahead of the competition but most people would hardly notice. Perhaps we should look at Apple’s core business as it relates to why they release the software that they do.

The Relationship Between Apple’s Software and Hardware

Everything that Apple does points back to their core business as a hardware company. Think about it, everything Apple does is to enhance the appeal of it’s hardware. They developed an operating system in order to sell more computers, the iTunes music store has sold billions of songs with only a slim profit in order to lure people to iPods, and the iPhone SDK will allow developers to make whatever applications they can imagine making the phone a more appealing device. If we connect the dots from the past, Safari needs to be a part of some kind of hardware project.

Now how does Safari for Windows fit into this type of plan? It’s not obvious at this time. But maybe come this June the answer will become clear as Apple continues to direct our attention to more shiny new devices with a premium price tag.