Strictly Commercial

January 20, 2009

Apple Peripherals: What’s wrong with this picture? (And what’s right.)

Filed under: Commercial, Random Musing, Technology — castlewriter @ 9:51 am

I own three Apple peripherals, but we’ll keep things simple by talking about only two of them with only a minor note on the third, since some of their deficits (and strengths) are shared.

Apple Keyboard:

ftq89xqf8qanfhgmedium.jpg

We’ll start with the obvious weakness here: The keys. The white plastic doesn’t hold up to the natural oils of human skin. Discoloration happens quite easily and requires constant vigilance to minimize. In addition to this rather obvious deficit, the keyboard takes some getting accustomed to due to its exceptionally thin profile.

How can it be fixed? One minor modification: Change the keys’ material to black plastic.

Other modifications that would increase the appeal of Apple’s keyboards:

-Incorporate the backlighting present on the high-end MacBook keyboards.
-For the wired model, integrate a glass MacBook/MB Pro trackpad.
-For the wireless model, to compensate for the additional power requirement of the illumination system, develop a MacBook Pro style rechargeable battery.

The Apple keyboard line does have some outstanding strengths, however, and anyone who owns one knows them well already. For those who aren’t already enjoying an Apple keyboard, here they are:

-Large, comfortably spaced keys, even on the incredibly compact and thin wireless model. I’m typing this, in fact, on a wireless Apple Keyboard, and my large hands are well accomodated.
–Excellent depth of travel and tactile feedback on the keys.
-The wired model incorporates two USB 2.0 ports. The one on the right, in fact, is ideal for connecting your mouse.
-The wireless model has excellent power consumption and power management features, including what I suppose I’d describe as a “sleep” mode where, if the keys are untouched, the board goes into a low power mode. Additionally, there is a ‘Power’ button on the right side to shut the keyboard down completely in the event the user expects not to use the board for a significant length of time.

Apple Mighty Mouse:

mightymouse4r.jpg

Again, we’ll begin with the obvious weakness, and it’s the same one. That glossy white plastic looks fantastic fresh out of the box, but it doesn’t stay that way without constant inspection and maintenance. Not ordinarily a big gripe, except that when you buy a computer because it just works (and it does, really well) one of the things that should not be included is the need to spend between 10-20% of your computer hours polishing the thing. Another significant weakness, oft-mentioned yet still unaddressed by Apple, is the unseemly behavior of the far-too-delicate scroll ball, which likewise begins to demand constant attention after between two and four months of full time use. And finally, although not as offensive as the “puck” mouse that shipped with the iMac, Apple’s Mighty Mouse still displays an astonishing lack of consideration for ergonomics.

The fixes with the Mighty Mouse are similarly, and similarly easy and low-cost to implement:

-A change to matte black plastic trimmed in aluminum, both to minimize the need for time-consuming cosmetic maintenance and for superior aesthetics when coupled with Apple’s current desktops, laptops and the proposed Apple Keyboard family refresh.
-Replace the mechanical trackball (and really, what legitimate place does a mechanical trackball have on any piece of consumer electronics in 2009, anyway?) with a solid, touch-sensitive sphere or dome in the same location.
-Sculpted shape for greater comfort and control. The rationale behind the current design, aside from form overriding function, appears to be to accommodate ambidextrous use of the mouse. This can simply be addressed by offering the device in right-handed or left-handed models.

One other feature notably lacking but now a standard feature on mice from competitors such as Microsoft and Logitech are “Back” and “Forward” controls. With a new, sculpted shape, these could easily be integrated, allowing for greater functionality and comfort.

How about it, Apple?

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