Apple store at eaton center mall
The Apple Magic Trackpad may signal a new era in the user interface. Photo by Josh McConnell/Flickr/cc by-nd

The long-awaited Magic Trackpad that Apple introduced at the Apple Store Tuesday brings the same multi-touch gestures used with the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad to the Apple desktop. The Magic Trackpad is a new wireless device that connects via Bluetooth to any Mac computer and allows users to interact with the machine through gestures, instead of pointing and clicking. Some analysts say the Magic Trackpad is a gateway to the future of computer interfaces. Others say this rumor that the PC mouse is the latest victim of Apple industrial design is premature.

Magic Trackpad: the essence of Apple industrial design

The Magic Trackpad conforms to the distinct Apple industrial design. The sleek, glass-covered aluminum device matches the same angle and height as the Mac desktop keyboard it’s designed to sit next to. CNNMoney.com reports that Apple began selling the multi-touch Magic Trackpad in its Apple Stores and on its website Tuesday morning. The online store went down for a while shortly before the Magic Trackpad went live, causing the usual intense blogging about what Apple industrial design would come up with next.

Multi-touch on steroids for the desktop

Apple says the Magic Trackpad supports a set of multi-touch gestures that include two-finger scrolling, pinching to zoom, rotating with your fingertips, three-finger swiping or switching between applications with four fingers. In its product description, Apple says, “Go from typing to gesturing in one motion, or do both at the same time,” and “Swiping through pages online feels just like flipping through pages in a book or magazine. And inertial scrolling makes moving up and down a page more natural than ever.”

Is the Magic Trackpad a preview of 3D computing?

The multi-touch Magic Trackpad could signal the start of a long-term strategy by Apple to prepare users for a future 3D interface. Johnny Evans at Computerworld said that Apple owns patents for 3D user interfaces and the Magic Trackpad is a key step in the company’s attempt to educate a population of customers into position for fully utilizing its advanced user interface. Evans imagines a 3D user interface in which you virtually reach into your computer screen using MultiTouch. He also visualizes the possibilities of using Apple’s iSight camera to detect motion and allow users to compute via head movement, arm movement or voice.

Is the Magic Trackpad a mouse killer?

The Magic Trackpad may be the hottest new device in the Apple Store, but it won’t kill the mouse, according to Jared Newman at PC World. Newman said old habits die hard. When he used the Magic Trackpad he complained that the lack of traditional ergonomics made his fingers tired. He also didn’t like the fact that when you’re dragging something, you can’t hold down a mouse button, lift the mouse and move it back to the center when you hit the edge of the mouse pad. But Newman’s main reason the Magic Trackpad dominate anytime soon: gamers can’t play shooter games without a mouse.

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