PC Advisor went along to Microsoft's Christmas product showcase yesterday, where alongside a plethora of Xbox Kinect developments - and Office 2011 for Mac, oddly enough - we were shown the firm's nifty new multitouch-equipped Microsoft Touch Mouse.
Multitouch allows the upper surface of the Touch Mouse to detect gestures by more than one finger at once, and respond with appropriate actions. You scroll with one swiped finger, for instance (there's no scrollwheel), but snap windows with a pair of fingers and use three to show all windows.
Drivers to handle all this will be automatically downloaded when you set up the mouse, provided you're running Window 7 - users of other OSes will get skeleton functionality, if they get any at all.
Here are some of the default gestures:
But Microsoft assured us that users will be able customise their own gestures for the Touch Mouse.
In bringing multitouch to the mouse, Microsoft is following a path beaten by Apple's Magic Mouse back in October 2009, and more recently - and less successfully - by the Xebec M-touch. But it's still a bold move; as we discovered in reviewing Apple and Xebec's products, multitouch isn't always an ideal fit for a one-handed device, since the fingers of your mouse hand need to hold the mouse in place at the same time as swiping fingers across the top.
But from a very brief try-out, Microsoft's Touch Mouse seems promising. It's got a little more solidity than the Xebec model, at least, so you may not need to hold it steady while swiping. The textured top - a departure from Apple's super-slick Magic Mouse - looks nice and seemed to work fine under the finger, but we'll have to play with it more to be sure.
The Microsoft Touch Mouse will launch in the UK in mid-August, and will available exclusively through PC World and Currys for the first three months of its life. It will have an estimated retail price of £69.99, and will come with a three-year warranty. We'll have a proper review and verdict just as soon as samples are available for prolonged testing.