SAN FRANCISCO — Apple Computer Inc.’s neglect of the humble mouse is over. It now offers a model that’s nimble.
Apple introduced on Tuesday its first computer mouse with multiple buttons, including four sensors and a tiny scroll ball. Although a departure from the company’s traditional mouse, the “Mighty Mouse” looks very similar to the single-button model Apple has long produced.
The most obvious difference is the relatively tiny scroll ball at the mouse’s head, which can move cursors diagonally as well as up and down across display screens and can be pressed to “click” functions.
Like Microsoft, Apple has for years built added functionality into its operating systems to accommodate multi-button mice. But you had to buy mice made by other manufacturers, such as Microsoft Corp. or Logitech, to take advantage.
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Designers of the new Apple device wanted a scroll ball that was less obtrusive than other models and wouldn’t impede those who chose not to use it, said David Moody, vice president of Macintosh hardware product marketing.
In lieu of actual buttons beyond the scroll ball, the optical-scanning mouse has four sensors that can be programmed for multiple actions, just like the left and right buttons on many PC mouses.
Mighty Mouse, which connects via a USB port, will retail for $49. It is PC-compatible but won’t be able to move your cursor diagonally in Microsoft’s Windows, Apple said.
Rolling out a multi-button mouse eliminates another important difference between Macs and PCs. In May, Apple announced that it would cease using IBM processors in favor of Intel chips, which power most PCs.
With the new mouse, Apple is seeking to tap into the accessory market, which includes such gadgets as flat-screen monitors, computer speakers, and remote controls, said Richard Shim, senior analyst at research firm IDC.
“There is no doubt that in the overall PC market, where margins are thin, there are opportunities for accessory makers,” Shim said. “There is a huge install base of PCs out there so there is money to be made if you can hit on a popular accessory.”
Apple said that it was granted permission to use the Mighty Mouse name, but offered no other details. Mighty Mouse is a cartoon superhero that was produced by Terrytoons in 1942.
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