According to PatentlyApple.com, in a new patent application released on January 20, 2011, Apple is looking to patent the addition of a touch display on the Magic Mouse. The touch display would serve numerous functions, offering up perhaps a numeric keypad, or virtual buttons mapped to often used application commands.
I hope this is just one of those ideas that never makes it. Why? The reason I learned to touch type was so that I wouldn’t have to constantly look back and forth from the screen to the keyboard. Having a mouse with virtual buttons presented via touchscreen seems counterintuitive. Because there are no physical keys, hitting the right spot on the mouse will require you to look at the mouse, taking focus away from the screen. If the mouse is showing a numeric keypad, for example, you will have to look down to see where the numbers are, since you can’t feel them.
Now wait just a minute. You might be thinking, “Isn’t that the same as the iPhone or iPad? Isn’t that the same with all touch screens? Yet millions of people seem to manage just fine typing really fast on their iPhones, why is this different?” The reason the touch screen keyboard works on the iPhone or iPad is because of the close proximity of the keyboard to the display area. They share the same surface; you can see both the keyboard and what you are typing in the same glance. Separate the two, and you begin to see some of the difficulties in having a touch screen display as an input device.
I’m all for assistive devices and increasing ease of use. For someone learning a new application or new to computers, a mouse that presents virtual buttons for often used application functions might make the use of that application easier.
It’s just not for me.