The conventional wisdom has been that Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs would never allow the company to ship a multi-button mouse; such an animal would compromise the legendary simplicity and ease of use that were Apple's hallmarks. Power users griped and, tired of Control-clicking instead of right-clicking to bring up contextual menus, or, desperate for a scroll wheel, looked for third-party pointing devices.
No more: last week Apple announced the immediate availability of the $50 Mighty Mouse, a programmable multi-function, multi-button mouse for Mac OS X, Windows 2000, or Windows XP. Mighty Mouse (yes, Apple was careful to license the name of the cartoon hero) is visually simple, a white corded mouse that looks just like the Apple Pro Mouse except for a tiny, spherical, scroll ball where the average mouse's scroll wheel might be.
The scroll ball rotates in any direction, rather than just up and down, enabling free-form scrolling that Apple says better suits "applications from viewing Web pages and photographs, to video editing and music creation." This any-direction scrolling is similar to that capability of the new scrolling trackpads featured in recent PowerBook and iBook models. The scroll ball is also clickable, as are most scroll wheels.
What keeps the Mighty Mouse's design pure and simple is the new touch-sensitive upper shell. Rather than separate hard-wired left and right buttons, the Mighty Mouse features a programmable touch area that can be one or two buttons - just one for purists who never need to right-click (and single-button mode is the default), or two for right-clickers or those who would like a right-click to perform some other action.
Side buttons, positioned where users of the Apple Pro Mouse have gotten used to gripping in order to lift and reposition their mouse, can be programmed together or separately, either for clicks or, for example, to activate Expose or Dashboard.
While Mighty Mouse is compatible with any version of Mac OS X, the company says Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger is required to customize the buttons for one-click access to Dashboard, Expose, and Spotlight, or to launch applications. The new mouse is available immediately at the online Apple Store as well as at Apple's retail stores and resellers.