June 25, 2009


Microsoft Mobile Memory Mouse 8000. Windows Vista, XP or NT/SP 4, or Macintosh OS X v.10.2-10.4X. Microsoft. $99.95.

Microsoft Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000. Windows Vista or XP/SP 2. Microsoft. $79.95.

     The interoperability of computer input devices is one of those technological wonders of which everyone is dimly aware but which few users sufficiently appreciate. Just imagine computer hardware as chaotic as cell phones, which require their own mutually exclusive chargers, and you will have a sense of gratitude for the fact that you can switch out a keyboard or mouse pretty much whenever you like for a different one made by the same or another company, and get identical or better functionality. (In fact, the major cell-phone manufacturers are moving toward the computer-hardware model by agreeing to make all their chargers interoperable within the next few years – to which users will say in enthusiastic chorus, the sooner the better.)

     The ability to switch a device such as a mouse whenever your needs change can help extend your computer’s life, enabling it to do functions you did not need when you first acquired it; or you can simply make a switch for fun, out of boredom with your previous mouse, or for any other reason. The simplicity of switching has spawned hundreds of inexpensive mice, some even available for free through rebate programs or as retailers’ loss leaders. More interestingly, it has also spawned some outstanding higher-end mice with neatly tailored functions – such as two of the many notebook-focused mice from the hardware division of Microsoft Corporation.

     Think about it: a mouse designed specifically for use with laptop/notebook computers. That in itself is a significant development. These mice need to be smaller and more readily portable than standard-size ones, but not so small that people with large hands will find them cumbersome to use. They need to be easy to transport – both the ones considered here come with their own carrying cases – and simple to use in a variety of different circumstances; hence a wireless design is significantly better than a wired one (who knows on what sort of surface, of what size, a traveler is going to be working with a computer and mouse?). The days of mice requiring mouse pads for traction are long gone, but not all mice work equally well in less-than-ideal settings. These two, using wireless laser technology, are just fine on airplane tray tables, in coffee shops, at airport lounges, even in gate areas of airports and train stations – where accommodations may be spartan at best.

     Yet the design concepts of the two mice are ultimately quite different, symptomatic of the ability to create specialized and targeted input devices for a wide variety of purposes. The Microsoft Mobile Memory Mouse 8000, which runs on both PCs and Macs, has a particularly neat recharging system, using the same type of magnetic connector found in Apple products. It also has a Bluetooth transceiver with built-in 1-GB flash memory – a wonderful accessory for travelers, since it allows you to bring all the data you are likely to need for presentations or reports in the same place as the transceiver that wirelessly connects the mouse to your computer in the first place. This not only means one thing fewer to carry and potentially forget – it also makes the chance of losing your data much smaller, since the likelihood of leaving behind the transceiver that lets you connect the mouse (and that fits into the case with the mouse itself) is not very high. The mouse is powered by a single AAA battery that is rechargeable – a nice touch, since travelers do not need to be caught in an unfamiliar location with a dead battery, and do not want to be burdened by carrying spares. The mouse even has a neat built-in battery status light that warns you when power is low and you need to recharge. And it has an on-off switch – why don’t more mice have those? – to extend battery life as much as possible. However, left-handed users will be disappointed: the mouse is optimized for righties, although using it left-handed (with a little bit of contortion) is certainly possible.

     The Microsoft Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000, although it costs less than the Microsoft Mobile Memory Mouse 8000, is even more full-featured – if and only if you have compelling needs for PowerPoint presentations and mouse-controlled media. If you do not have those needs, it is woefully over-engineered. Actually, the Microsoft Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 is engineered to integrate particularly well with PCs running Windows Vista (although it works on ones powered by XP as well); this is not a Mac-compatible mouse, and its feature set clearly shows why. The mouse has 12 – count them, 12 – buttons. In addition to all the usual mouse functions, this unit has forward, back and blank-screen controls on the bottom for use in PowerPoint presentations; it has a button that turns the mouse into a laser pointer; and there is even a Digital Ink feature so you can draw on screen. It’s a media-center control as well, with play, pause, volume control, and next- and previous-track buttons (some of the buttons are multifunctional, for both PowerPoint and media use). Yes, it has an on-off switch; and its symmetrical design makes it equally suitable for right- and left-handed users. But this is a specialty product and needs to be seen as one: there is no value to paying for PowerPoint and media functions you will not use. Also, this mouse runs on two AAA non-rechargeable batteries – an irritation, because its really cool clear hardshell carrying case has room only for the mouse and transceiver, not for spare batteries.

     Both these mice have certain features that will be useful to and appreciated by all users, such as four-way scrolling (side to side as well as up and down) and a magnifier (by default, a right-side button – but all the buttons on both these mice can easily be reassigned, which is another very nice and highly useful part of the design). Both come with three-year warranties. And either one will be an excellent addition to your mobile computing – and easy to replace with a different mouse if your needs change. Microsoft is a software company, not a hardware firm, but it is interesting to see just how good a job its comparatively small hardware division does at creating products that make it easier and more comfortable to use computers powered by Microsoft software – or even ones run by software created by Microsoft’s competitors.

No comments:

Post a Comment