Microsoft has revealed the next stage in the development of its Arc Mouse, the Arc Touch. As the name implies, the company has incorporated some touch sensitivity into its upper surface and also designed it to flatten out at the touch of a finger, for convenient transport while not in use. Its wireless USB transceiver also fits snuggly in the peripheral's underside to help ensure that everything you need is in one place when you're on the road.
Like an increasing number of people, my main computer is a laptop. It's perhaps a little more comfortable to use than some in that it has a full-size keyboard and nice big screen. Of course there's a trackpad, which I must admit to only using when out and about. If I find myself sitting at a desk I use a mouse - why? Comfort and precision. Call me old fashioned but I find a separate mouse easier to use and more comfortable than the built-in trackpad. And it would appear that I might be just the kind of portable computer user that Microsoft was thinking of when its new Arc Touch Mouse was being developed.
At first look, you could be forgiven for thinking that Microsoft is just trying to catch up with Apple's multi-touch Magic Mouse. But whereas the whole of the upper surface of Apple's peripheral is given over to numerous sweeps and gestures, the touch part of the Arc's design is the restricted to the bit where you would normally find the scroll wheel, in between the left and right click buttons.
The touch strip uses capacitive sensor technology to determine the position and velocity of a user's tactile action. Microsoft says that this results in "accurate, controlled scrolling no matter how fast or slow the movement." If pages and pages of a document spin uncontrollably on the screen in front of you, a simple tap of the scroll strip is said to bring it all to an abrupt halt.
Haptic vibration technology has been incorporated in the Arc Touch to simulate the subtle bumps users experience when using a scroll wheel on a standard mouse. Additionally, the front area of the strip can be used for Page Up functionality, the middle is a programmable click area and the rest is for Page Down.
Aside from the touch sensitive interaction, the Arc Touch is very different from the Magic Mouse. Microsoft's wireless mouse has been designed to flatten "with just the touch of a finger" while being transported. Whilst flat, the mouse is turned off to preserve its pair of AAA-sized batteries, which are said to offer up to six months usage. The 2.28 x 5.14-inch (58 x 130.6mm) device is activated by curving it again until it clicks into place and the power light comes on.
Underneath, Microsoft has made the Arc Touch surface-friendly by including BlueTrack technology, which helps with accurate tracking on most surfaces (with the notable exception of clear glass or mirrors). The Arc Touch is accompanied by a tiny 2.4 GHz USB transceiver which snaps into a special slot on the mouse's underside to help make sure that when you want to use the peripheral, you have everything you need in one place. The transceiver has a usable range of 30 feet, with "virtually no interference."
The Arc Touch Mouse has been given an estimated retail price of US$69.95 and is available now for pre-order, shipping is expected to begin in early December.