I had some time to kill this weekend while my car was having its oil changed. I meandered over to Best Buy to see if they had the new 27″ iMac in store. They did. And it far surpassed even my most lustful, Mac-loving fantasies. Honestly, it was truly amazing. I expected the screen to be big, but not gargantuan. Slim, slick, inspiring.
The picture is razor sharp. There’s a ton of power under the hood. But what really was a surprise to me was the new mouse. The Magic Mouse. I hadn’t heard about its new design until that moment. Ironically, earlier in the day, I was struggling at home with its progenitor, the Mighty Mouse. For Mac users, you’re familiar with the Mighty Mouse. I loved it when it first came out with its bi-directional scroll ball. Thought it was an ingenious one-up on the traditional scroll wheel. But, as many Mac users know, the Mighty Mouse suffers from frequent scroll ball gum-ups. The ball stops working in one or multiple directions once it becomes clogged with skin debris and finger grease. There are all kinds of tips offered online about how to clean the wheel. Sometimes water on a paper towel works, sometimes a Clorox wipe, sometimes running a piece of sticky tape over it to suck off the invisible bits o’crap. But the frustrating fact of the matter is that you simply can’t open the Mighty Mouse up to clean that friggin’ ball.
So how did Apple ostensibly answer this design flaw? It eliminated the wheel completely. When I opened a browser window on the iMac demo unit and reflexively went to spin the scroll ball, I noticed it wasn’t there at all. I looked down and did the confused dog head cock at the mouse and thought, “how could they possibly remove the scroll wheel? That’s crazy!” Then I noticed the extremely slick surface of the mouse and thought, “that looks a lot like the old iPod wheels.” Testing my iNtuition, I ran my finger smoothly across the surface and watched my browser window glide south. I then ran my finger side to side and watched the window follow me obediently.
And then I had that moment that keeps Mac users hooked like heroin addicts. You know it. The “DAMN that’s AWESOME!” moment.
After the endorphins subsided, I reveled in the continued genius of the industrial design team at Apple. I’ve spoken about its brilliant moves to consolidate the user experience between iPhones, iPods and Macs. Everything on the software side has gradually become a seamless, synergistic endeavor. But now, on the hardware front, beyond the exterior materials and finishes, the physical interface is unifying. Bringing multi-touch to the mouse not only reinforces the Apple experience and solves the shortcomings of the flawed Mighty Mouse ball, it provides yet another sterling example of purposeful, insightful and inspiring product design.
And it proves yet again that intangible brand values can be quite tangible…literally.