Apple’s Magic TrackPad: Niche Product or the Next Big Thing?

By  |  Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 10:08 am

Apple announced a bunch of products this morning, including more potent Mac Pros, iMacs with new processors, an a 27-inch Cinema Display. But the most intriguing new item is the smallest and cheapest one: the $69 Magic Trackpad. Rumored for months, it brings the multi-touch design and integrated button to an oversized, standalone wireless Bluetooth model designed to look good sitting next to Apple’s wireless keyboard.

(Apple says that the Magic Trackpad is for Macs only; I wonder if anyone will figure out how to make it work with Windows, or if the company would consider a PC-friendly model?)

I rarely use desktop computers these days, but I like the idea: I’m not exactly anti-mouse, but mice take up a lot of space, have a nasty habit of colliding with papers and other items, and are sometimes hostile to southpaws like me. Which is why I’m at least as likely to use a trackball as a mouse when I am at a desk.

Come to think of it, there was also a period way back in the nineties when I used one of Cirque’s standalone touchpads with my work desktop. Cirque still makes them, so there’s a market there–but it seems to be a small one.

Apple’s spin on the idea looks way more appealing than Cirque’s: The Magic Trackpad is larger, wireless, multi-touch, buttonless, and more stylish. Will a meaningful percentage of iMac and Mac Pro owners choose one over a mouse? I don’t have a clue, but I’m curious. Touchpads have been the dominant integrated pointing devices on laptops for a decade and a half, but I know plenty of people who still aren’t fans: They travel with mice–including miniature ones which look kinda clumsy to me–rather than be forced to use a touchpad.

Of course, if Apple wants to actively advocate for touchpads rather than simply offer them as an option, there’s a radical step it could take: making the Magic Trackpad the default pointing device it ships with iMacs and Mac Pros. It’s not doing that–in fact, as far as I can tell, you can’t even order a custom-configured Mac that comes with a Magic Trackpad but no mouse. (You can get one that comes with a mouse and a touchpad.)

I’d be perfectly happy to buy an iMac that came only with a touchpad–although, oddly enough, I’d prefer a corded USB one over one whose batteries I needed to worry about. (Speaking of which, Apple also introduced a $29 AA battery recharger today.) How about you?

 
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22 Comments For This Post

  1. Khoji Says:

    I hate trackpads in any shape, size and form. I can't think of anything that Apple has ever produced that was less appealing. Zero interest.

  2. Alex Sebenski Says:

    I promise they're just preparing us for using these as a requirement for their next product.

  3. @RichardFrisch Says:

    I find a good mouse, which excludes any Apple mouse ever made, much more comfortable than a trackpad. The trackpad has its advantages but at the end of day the I'll take the mouse with a three-dimensional surface and multiple buttons over the trackpad.

    I like multi-touch but I forget what all the choices are. I also work on lots of different computers, PCs and Macs, and I find myself getting more and more confused by the differences. I am more productive with a mouse that I understand than all these wiz-bang new-fangled inventions.

    I am looking forward to the not-to-distant future when I can do away with all these pointing devices and just use my hands and fingers like the Minority Report type interface.

  4. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    I plug one of my notebooks into a big display and graphics tablet and aluminum keyboard, but I end up missing the trackpad gestures, so I'm going to get one of these for that setup. The 2-finger scrolling and the Expose gestures, where you use all your fingers to flick away all the windows and see the desktop, or in the opposite direction see all windows in an overview are very, very productive. The trackpad is also very easy on the hand, much easier than the mouse. If you have any carpal tunnel you should try this.

  5. Ryan Says:

    I *really* want this to be released with a Windows friendly driver… Because it is a lovely little piece of tech. The one thing I miss from my Macbook is the big giant trackpad.

  6. Matt Says:

    I second this. If Apple releases a Windows driver I will gladly pick one up to use with my work laptop.

  7. David Says:

    I third this. I actually never thought of using a trackpad for a desktop setup. It does make sense though, should really help alleviate wrist problems (as long as you don't rest your wrist).

  8. Rambie Says:

    Ok, I 4th this. I’d get one if they had PC drivers.

  9. bi0mech Says:

    Looks like everyone's wish has come true:
    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4273

  10. IcyFog Says:

    I prefer mice to trackpads because I can make finer, more precise movements with mice. Really the Magic Mouse could have more multi-finger gestures added to do the same thing the Magic Trackpad does.

  11. Spud Says:

    There is a windows driver on http://support.apple.com/downloads

  12. John Says:

    Does anyone know if it will work on normal windows or just windows installed on a mac? I’d buy one in a heart beat, I love interfacing with my iphone this way. This is almost enough to make me buy a mac…

  13. Neil Anderson Says:

    Just put an order in for two … I've got a lot of fingers.

  14. Jazib Nasim Says:

    It only works with boot camp on a mac for windows applications

  15. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    The whole point of the Magic Trackpad is to be a step towards Minority Report. The actual pointing is like feature number 10. The gestures are the main thing. For example, when you flick 4 fingers up, all the windows fly off the screen to reveal the Desktop. You just flick the windows away. With 2 fingers you scroll in any direction. With 3 you move the current window.

  16. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Are you sure about that? A Mac running Boot Camp is just a PC. Boot Camp emulates PC BIOS and boots native Windows. This is a Bluetooth peripheral, not built-in Mac hardware.

  17. Gavin Says:

    The current driver is for bootcamp only. Download, install on your PC, it will say you need bootcamp. Too bad, I also order one without serious reading.

  18. ediedi Says:

    The trackpads on portable macs are excellent. They are so good thet it makes using a mouse with a laptop not necessary (except for some mouse-intensive tasks – gaming, photoshop, etc.). The mac trackpad remains one of the last killer features setting apple apart. One just has to try it to understand.
    Re: the standalone trackpad – only use i see for it is if standing on the couch and playing a movie on the computer – a mouse is ackward in this situation.

  19. pond Says:

    I’d like to see an Apple keyboard with the trackpad built in. I wonder if there are any thoughts in Cupertino to release such a thing. Seems obvious enough, if the trackpad takes off.

    I’ve seen keyboards with trackpads, but they generally put the trackpad center-bottom, the way laptop keyboards are designed. I would imagine Apple would put the thing to one side — instead of the keypad — if they offered it.

  20. Emanuele Di Lazzaro Says:

    Apple Magic Trackpad vs PC Mouse
    A dedicated web page to rate, comment and discover what the web thinks http://www.vsizer.com/index.php?action=show&i

  21. cheska Says:

    Looks impressive. However, will take a lot of getting use to especially since I’ve been a mouse user ever since.

  22. Claire Says:

    I got one to replace my eight-year-old Expert Mouse trackball (whose horizontal sensor was going). It works very well for general use and some of the gestures are also very useful.

    I'd say that the worries about accuracy are pretty much out (although you're probably better off with a mouse or trackball for gaming, for nongaming uses it's just fine). There are two issues I've seen so far. The first is that it only has support for two buttons (i.e., left and right click), and I miss my extra buttons allowing me to, say, open a link in a new tab with one click. The second is that you're using your fingers a lot more to move around and for gestures, and I've noticed a bit of cramping with heavy use.