What was once a must-have accessory for any computer appears to be facing an inevitable demise—an ever-growing number of manufacturers are eschewing the traditional mouse in favor of the “touch pad.”
Major industry players such as Apple have dipped their toes in the touch pad waters before. But with a laundry list of new all-in-ones, laptops and tablets completely forgoing the traditional mouse, the writing is on the proverbial wall.
First conceived in the 1960s, the computer mouse didn’t gain mainstream success until the 1980s, when graphical user interfaces made them all but indispensible. Apple’s success with the Macintosh computer, one of the first to ship with a mouse, bolstered the trend.
In this “post-PC” era, however, the mouse has been doomed by a single word: “touch.” Case in point: the explosion of touch-screen tablets and the touch-heavy aspects of Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system. What’s more, the mouse’s true death blow appears to be coming from a crop of newly announced computers.
The new desktop HP Spectre One doesn’t sport a touch screen, but doesn’t come with a mouse, either. Instead, for $1,299, buyers receive an all-in-one computer/monitor, wireless keyboard and wireless touch pad. In addition, discount television maker Visio is entering the computer market with a complete lineup of all-in-ones and laptops that feature a touch pad rather than mouse.
This trend gets support from accessory manufacturers, who are working to produce more touch pad-style devices. In the vein of the Apple Trackpad, companies such as Logitech, HP and Gear Head are bringing, or in some cases have already brought, stand-alone touch pads to a market screaming for anything “touch.”
What this means for the education market is a slow march towards a mouse-less environment. While on its surface, this doesn’t seem all that shocking as the change will occur as new, touch-based computers and devices are purchased to replace older, mouse-based ones. However, the hardware is just one aspect.
Anyone who has ever used a touch pad can attest that it is less exact than a traditional mouse. While hardware manufacturers are working to provide increased precision, and software providers write new versions of their titles to account for a touch-based environment, there will still be an adjustment period as teachers become acclimated to the new technology.
Forward-thinking schools can stay one step ahead with a little planning and hands-on training. Current touch pad peripherals retail for around $50, making it feasible to purchase a handful for the purpose of teacher and student practice. The key will be getting faculty up to speed on touch pad use before the mouse disappears forever.