Tracking the Magic

Among updates to its line of Cinema Displays, iMacs, and Mac Pros earlier this week, Apple also introduced a new aluminum & glass clad input device — the Magic Trackpad

I just so happen to have picked one up, just to give you my impressions. If you’ve used any of Apple’s unibody MacBooks or MacBook Pros, you’d be familiar with the gorgeous glass multi-touch trackpad. The Magic Trackpad is essentially a larger version of that, powered by batteries and connected by bluetooth. The idea is that this brings all the current gestures currently available in OS X to desktop users.

Now, I’m a MacBook Pro user, so you may wonder why I’d even want this? Well, I use my MacBook Pro as a desktop replacement, and 90% of the time, it is on a Griffin Elevator on my desk, in order to bring the screen in line of my eyes. Hence, I also have been using Apple’s aluminum wireless keyboard and the Magic Mouse.

The Magic Mouse brought the ability to use two fingers to go back/forward a page in Safari, iPhoto, or other app with gesture support, whereas the built in trackpad on my MacBook Pro was capable of so much more, especially initiating Exposé, something I use often.

Needless to say, I loved, and do still love, the Magic Mouse, but its multi-touch support was limited at best.

Enter the Magic Trackpad into my life. Now there is no need to adjust my muscle memory for gestures on supported peripherals. They are the same whether I am using my MacBook Pro at my desk or in a coffee shop. To be honest, I have been craving this same functionality ever since I ran across this mockup on Flickr.

Now, a bigger question. Why would Apple even make this? Well, if you know anything at all about Apple, it is obvious that everything in their product line is there for a reason. Everything has a specific reason for being there. Regarding the Magic Mouse and now the Magic Trackpad, I look at it this way: The Magic Mouse was used to introduce many desktop mac users to multi-touch in OS X. It is essentially the “missing link” — a hybrid between the past and the future. The Magic Trackpad then unifies the portable and desktop lines in order to make all of the same gestures available to all Mac users. 

But to what end? Well, my guess is the next major version of the Mac OS — presumably Mac OS X 10.7 — will have a predominant focus on bringing multi-touch across most of the system. iMacs already ship with the wireless keyboard and Magic Mouse as the standard. Would it really be surprising to see that change to the wireless keyboard and the Magic Trackpad as the standard by the time 10.7 rolls around? 

Also, Apple is notorious for throwing out things that they feel are obsolete. Floppy disks, anyone? I believe Apple thinks that multi-touch is the input method for the future. That is really evident in the iPhone and iPad. However, traditional keyboard & mouse computers aren’t going to disappear overnight, but Apple could make a significant push towards moving millions of people to multi-touch by putting the mouse on the back burner, and including trackpads as the default for desktop computers.

Overall, I am very impressed with the Magic Trackpad. For me, it seamlessly unifies the mobile and desktop experience of a Mac. And I think it is a preparation of things to come in Mac OS X.