Two weeks ago, Microsoft revealed a "touch mouse" that has a touch-sensitive surface. Apple is upping Microsoft with a touchscreen mouse, a mouse that integrates a glass surface and a configurable input screen below.
There are plenty of reasons not to like Apple, but even the most emotional Apple-haters among us have to admit that some of the best ideas for future computing devices come out of Apple's labs. The USPTO just published a July 14, 2009 patent filing by Apple, which describes a complex mouse that could hint to a departure from the traditional one-button Apple mouse.
Not only does the patent filing describe a mouse that has three main mouse buttons (left, middle, right), but also an integrated glass surface/touchscreen in the area where the palm of your hand usually rests. In Apple's words, we are talking about an "an interface to communicate user interactions to a host system and a display assembly to display an image to a user. In some examples, the display device will include a collimated glass component. A method is disclosed that includes displaying an image at an input device, such as a mouse, and then displaying a second image in response to a user input through the input device."
We are already seeing iPhone being used as input devices via apps and Bluetooth connectivity. Now it seems that Apple is going the other way as well. The company imagines a touchscreen area that can be configured in many ways. For example, it could provide the features of a "personal digital assistant, a mobile telephone, a mouse, a graphics pad, a keyboard, and other input devices." A mouse that can double as the keypad of your mobile phone? If you think about it, that could be a pretty handy feature when you are sitting on your desk.
The configuration of the icons will be configured automatically, according to Apple. The touchscreen may either respond to specific user actions or to system events. "The host system may initiate changes to the displayed icons (or other images) in response to inputs provided to the host system (opening a new program or file, selecting a function, etc.), and the inputs provided through the input device re-mapped in accordance with the displayed images," the filing reads. "In analogous example, the input device itself might reconfigure one or more displayed images in response to user inputs."
An intriguing idea.