By Jared Newman | Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 11:48 am
I, for one, was a little disappointed when the mystery product Microsoft teased last month turned out to be the Arc Touch, a two-button mouse with a touch-sensitive middle strip. Not that there’s anything wrong with touch-sensitive mouses, but all the hubbub seemed misplaced considering that Apple pulled off the multi-touch mouse a year ago.
Fortunately, touch sensitivity isn’t the really cool thing about Microsoft’s Arc Touch. Its most novel feature is shape-shifting. When in use, the Arc Touch is curved to rest comfortably in the hand, and to turn it off, you just pound the arch into a pancake, so it’s about 0.6 inches thick at its fattest point.
In releasing the Arc Touch — available for pre-order from Best Buy, Amazon and Buy.com for $70, and ships before the holidays — Microsoft claimed that laptop users like to have a mouse handy. The company cited its own research that says a third of people who buy laptops also get a mouse at the same time. The phenomenon is true for me, at least; My Asus thin-and-light has a decent trackpad, with two-finger scrolling, but eventually my index finger feels the strain of so much twisting and turning. That’s why I use a proper mouse at home — a big fat Logitech Marathon M705.
For travel, my mouse is a monstrosity, measuring an inch and a half thick at the top of its arch, so I tend to leave it at home. That’s where Microsoft wants to come in with the Arc Touch. It’s clearly a travel mouse, as this promotional video suggests (no one’s working at their desks, just coffee tables, park benches, laps, couches and — most strangely — concrete stairs).
I’m a little concerned that the Arc Touch’s unique shape wont’ be as comfortable in the long run as mouses that contour around the hand, but that’s okay for a travel mouse. The bigger challenge for Microsoft, I think, will be to convince people that liberation from the trackpad, even on the road, is worth $70.