Logitech New Mouse Range Goes Back to the Future

The Mouse: A Well-deserved Success Story

Daniel Borel founded Logitech in 1981. He is just as enthusiastic about it now as he was at the very beginning and was kind enough to answer our questions.

Could you tell us how the mouse and Logitech were born?

After studying in Switzerland, I was lucky enough to win a study grant. I was a physicist and wanted to do something else. In one year, I switched to computing, then I took off for Silicon Valley. It was a shock and a revelation. We all wanted to do something, be part of the development of this new technology that was going to change the world. A friend and I began by working on word processing, both the software and the hardware aspects, then graphics layout, and we had some success. The mouse arrived in 1982 and we were in contact with the biggest manufacturers at the time, Apple and HP. Our idea was to manufacture mice and especially the mouse application interface, then sell them to other manufacturers. We visited Taiwan and then soon went to China. The market was growing rapidly and then Microsoft chose the mouse to use with Word. We told ourselves that we could sell them our mouse and Bill Gates himself gave us the right contact within his company. But it never happened. So we put an ad with a coupon in Byte magazine. We distributed our mouse, pricing it at $100, where all the others were priced at $170. It was an immediate hit and we were able to keep it up because the difference lay in the way we programmed the interfaced for the application. In any case, Logitech is based on the French terms "Logiciels Technologies" (software technology).

Back to 2004. After all, user interfaces haven't changed radically for many years. Do you think the keyboard and mouse will remain the essential interfaces for communication between people and machines?

Since 1988, I've been hearing analysts predict that the mouse will be swept away by voice recognition, which will become the sole interface. There is no area in which everything has come together in one package, except perhaps in the case of the Swiss army knife. The food processor hasn't replaced the knife. The human voice will be used for certain applications but it will never replace the mouse. We are merely trying to improve the interface between the user and the technology, we are the final link. For the user, this should involve as minimal as possible an understanding of the technology. We believe in the voice, but rather for communication with other people for the moment.

Voice recognition, which ought to have been perfected twenty years ago, has not made spectacular progress. You still can't say to your telephone: "Call Peter for me." Interfacing with a GPS in the car using voice alone ought to be possible and yet it doesn't work. You can't tell the car "Take me to the Eiffel Tower." We have not created the technology but when it becomes available, we will work on the interfacing, the last fraction of an inch between it and the user.

Furthermore, we've tried masses of things to replace the mouse. New inventors come along every day. The truth is that nothing better has ever been found for moving a cursor in two dimensions. Things may change if our computer world moves into three dimensions, especially on the Web, and we are working on 3D interfaces, especially for automobiles. We are synchronized with the emergence of new mass-market technologies. That's how we progressed from the PC to the games console, then to cell phones. Now we're starting to take an interest in the digital house.