Apple's new Magic Mouse is one clever rodent

Apple may have just built a better mousetrap with its new Magic Mouse.

Apple's low-key product rollout on Tuesday included updated iMacs and a new $999 MacBook, but one of its more innovative new offerings deserves a closer look: the Magic Mouse. Featuring multi-touch features borrowed from the iPhone, iPod touch, and MacBook Pro, Apple's latest pointing device is a clever melding of the traditional desktop mouse with the swiping and swirling gestures of today's touchscreens.

The Magic Mouse comes with the new iMacs, and sells separately for US$69 (AUD$99). It's a sleek, low-slung wireless pointer with a smooth top shell. There are no buttons or scroll wheels.

No buttons? Well, not exactly. The top shell is actually one giant button. It's a multi-touch sensor that allows you to click anywhere.

The device tracks like a conventional mouse. To right-click or activate a shortcut menu, you click the top-right corner of the mouse. Lefties can configure Magic Mouse to do the same thing with a top-left click.

Magic Mouse brings iPhone-like scrolling to the desktop. To scroll through a Web page or document, you run your finger vertically up and down the mouse's top shell.

To scroll side to side, move your finger horizontally (left or right). And you can scroll a full 360 degrees by moving your finger in a circular motion--handy for viewing and editing large photos.

To magnify your desktop, hold down the control key on the keyboard, and then run a finger upwards on the mouse. To zoom out, run your finger back down.

Tired of all the scrolling and swiping? You can turn off the multi-touch features and use Magic Mouse as a conventional point-and-click device too.

Magic Mouse is certainly clever, but questions remain as to how well it'll work in day-to-day usage. Will the multi-touch features enhance the desktop experience, or will they annoy users and get in the way?

At first glance, Magic Mouse looks like a winner. A "hockey puck" fiasco it isn't.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci ) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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