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5/23/2013
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Microsoft To Windows 8 Haters: Try This Mouse

Windows 8 has been a particularly big flop on the desktop. Can a mouse designed to make the OS friendlier help?

8 Things Microsoft Could Do To Save Windows 8
8 Things Microsoft Could Do To Save Windows 8
(click image for slideshow)
Earlier this week, Soluto, a PC management firm, reported that Windows 8 users have little use for Modern UI apps, and that desktop and laptop users are particularly unengaged. The findings were, to a degree, unsurprising; to many users, the Win8's Live Tile-dominated Start screen hasn't been, despite what Windows chief Julie Larson-Green insists, an improvement over Windows 7.

It will be up to Windows 8.1, expected to debut as a public preview this summer before becoming commercially available in the fall, to address this problem. In the meantime, Microsoft has extended two small olive branches to users disillusioned by touchscreens, unfamiliar shortcuts and hidden Charms menus: new, Windows 8-optimized mice.

Compatible with Windows 7 and Mac OS X but designed specifically for Windows 8, the Sculpt Mobile Mouse and Sculpt Comfort Mouse both include a button that allows users direct access to the Start screen. Whatever agility Windows 8 offers is more evident on touch-equipped models, which allow adept users to swipe and tap their way through menus and apps. By making the Start screen an organic part of a familiar action, the mice are intended to extend that fluidity to users of non-touch hardware.

[ What else do Windows 8 haters need to be happy? Read Windows Blue: Restoring The Start Button Isn't Enough. ]

Aimed at on-the-go laptop, ultrabook and tablet users, the Sculpt Mobile Mouse is tiny, with rubber strips on the side to make it easier to grip. It's able to track over almost any surface thanks to Microsoft's BlueTrack technology. It also includes a scroll wheel that allows both up-down and left-right movement, making it potentially useful for mobile devices with small screens. The Windows 8 tie-in stems from a button behind the scroll wheel. If tapped once, the button takes users to the Start screen. If tapped a second time, the button opens the app most recently used.

The Sculpt Mobile mouse wirelessly connects to laptops, desktops and other devices via a USB dongle that can be stored in the mouse for storage when not in use. It will go on sale later this month for $30.

Though the Sculpt Mobile will work with any Windows 8 device that has a USB connection, desktop users will probably prefer the Sculpt Comfort. This mouse is larger than its sibling and connects wirelessly via Bluetooth. It has a touch-sensitive button on the side that not only duplicates the functions of the Sculpt Mobile button, but also allows the user to scroll through open applications by running his or her finger along the button's surface. It will be available in June for $40.

In a broad sense, Microsoft's new mice could do for non-touch Windows 8 users what Apple's Magic Trackpad has done for its iMac base: let them embrace new UI elements organically, while still relying on their familiar routines. It's an imperfect comparison, if for no other reason than iMacs are more usable without Trackpads than Win8 PCs are without touch. Microsoft also already has a few touch-sensitive mice on the market. Given that none of these has helped the OS's popularity with desktop users, it's not clear how many people are interested in mice with Start screen-linked buttons.

Still, taking a cue from the iMac-Trackpad partnership sets a reasonable expectation for Microsoft's mice. The Trackpad is useful but not transformative, and that's probably the most that Windows 8 users can expect from these new mice.

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jrehg337
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jrehg337,
User Rank: Strategist
5/24/2013 | 5:33:36 PM
re: Microsoft To Windows 8 Haters: Try This Mouse
That's great news. After all the money spent on a new machine with Win8, I get to spend more to get it to work the way I'd like. I'm wondering who MS is hiring as UI engineers. (Back in the day we called them Human Factors, but the name is unimportant.) If anyone considered that for most people effective change comes in increments, then they would set up their new 'look' as an option to turn on or off, with enough advantages to motivate users to turn it on. Just like my android phone presents a new dialer interface with every upgrade (What was wrong with the previous? Oh, nothing, the new designer preferred circles over squares, so we changed it.), MS must change things to keep the money coming in (new tests for certification, etc.), without really adding much value. No, I won't be buying a new mouse. I'm still working to remove the tiles, if not permanently, then at least as much out of the way as possible, so I can work as efficiently as in the past.
DAVEN
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DAVEN,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/24/2013 | 6:35:35 PM
re: Microsoft To Windows 8 Haters: Try This Mouse
@Michael. I am still trying to understand the reason why some folks do not like Win8. I have used some version Windows since 3.0 and this is the best OS yet for PCs. I do everything with Win8 that I did with Win7, Vista and XP, including programming, word processing, spreadsheet development, database management, photo processing, and slide creation. It starts up faster from sleep mode but because of my system health programs it does take a long time to start from a cold boot but I don't blame Win8 for that. I prefer the tiles over the start menu, which I have completely forgotten about. Perhaps it helps that I do not own a smartphone or other devices that cost hundreds to buy and maintain. My guess is that the 80-20 rule applies: 80 percent of people are visual thinkers and 20 percent are auditory. The 80 percent of us like the tiles to show us the current time, world news, sport scores, etc. The 20 percent want to read a list of programs on their PC in a menu. If MS wants to pull more of the 20 percent into the Win80 world then 8.1 needs to use text-to-speech technology on the UI. But for the 80 percent of us, we can absorb more information faster visually than through text and speech. I hope that MS understands that removing some Win8 features will be a step backwards in the evolution Windows. I will wait to see if I want to downgrade to 8.1 or not. Win8 rocks!
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
5/24/2013 | 7:52:00 PM
re: Microsoft To Windows 8 Haters: Try This Mouse
Are you seriously suggesting that 80% of people prefer Win8 and that speech of all things will make those of us who don't like it fall in love with this turkey? Where? On Klingon?

BTW, I've never seen "Ballmer" spelled "Daven" before!
AsokAsus
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AsokAsus,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/24/2013 | 11:57:35 PM
re: Microsoft To Windows 8 Haters: Try This Mouse
Unbelievable. Microsoft makes an operating system and a user interface that are so bad and so universally hated that they are almost single-handedly killing the PC industry right now, and their brilliant fix to the problem? A bag on the side of a mouse. You can't make this stuff up folks.
ja_1410
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ja_1410,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/25/2013 | 12:21:46 AM
re: Microsoft To Windows 8 Haters: Try This Mouse
The engineers are probably OK. It is the "artists: and "designers" morons who come up with lego interface and force engineers to program this abomination.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
5/25/2013 | 1:02:19 PM
re: Microsoft To Windows 8 Haters: Try This Mouse
So we are supposed to buy overpriced accessories to fix a design flaw? Fix Windows, Microsoft!
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
5/25/2013 | 1:07:13 PM
re: Microsoft To Windows 8 Haters: Try This Mouse
I work in an office where people constantly stop by at my desk and I have four people working close by. Do you really think that a talking PC will fly in that setting? As far as Win8 goes, take any action and compare the number of steps needed in Win8 with Win7. Almost everything requires more steps in Win8, including fishing for invisible buttons or landing areas to get the charms to show up. Win 8 on a touch only tablet might be a good option, on the desktop it is a total flop. And I am in big company with that assessment.
Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/25/2013 | 10:12:35 PM
re: Microsoft To Windows 8 Haters: Try This Mouse
I'm assuming that you use a brand new PC.

For those of us who are saddled with hardware from the Stone Age (my 8-core Xeon box dates back to 2010), Windows 8 was a direct performance hit when running side by side with Windows 7. The comparison wasn't even fair, seeing how the Windows 7 install had been on the system for roughly 12 months and was cluttered with applications, data, etc. True, I had taken the time to tune it a little bit, but when compared to a fresh install of Windows 8 on the same hardware, there was a marked drop in performance.

It's great that your system loads up faster from sleep and doesn't take long to boot up from a cold boot - that's never been an issue for me since I leave mine on 24/7 - so that functionality has close to zero value for me.

One of my problems with the tile interface, when I used it, was that there was so much screen space wasted in the sake of making it look "cool". Being an engineer, I'm a true believer in form following function, not vice-versa. Give me a UI that competes with the elegance of CDE, IRIX or OLVWM - not more trasparency this, charms that or whatever they want to call it.

After this gaffe of an OS, and a reconsideration of my system usage habits, I've moved back to using a Unix variant for my desktop - everything that I need to do in Windows can be done in a virtual machine at this point.

Is Text to Speech going to bring me back intot he Windows camp? Not a chance.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/27/2013 | 10:36:31 AM
re: Microsoft To Windows 8 Haters: Try This Mouse
Nice, this will be the top joke about Windows 8 after Microsoft had gone the Commodore way!
Alex
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Alex,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/30/2013 | 11:38:10 AM
re: Microsoft To Windows 8 Haters: Try This Mouse
I have to say that last Friday my new laptop arrived with winblows 8 installed on it so I thought I would give it a go. Out of 5 possible days working since then I have managed to do about 1 full day of work. Simply installing some antivirus was bad enough adn I had to "system restore" 3 times before giving up and using winblows defender. I have rang up Microsoft asking for a key for windows 7 but no joy so I had to shell out another 70 quid for yet another windows key. I am not adverse to change but windows 8 is just plain wrong. Personaly I believe that Microsoft botch every other OS.... Windows ME = POS (PIle of S'*!), XP = Not to bad (after some SP updates), Windows Vista = POS, Windows 7 = pretty good operating system, windows 8 - well it still remains to be seen but so far it's an epic fail on the part of Microsoft - which I am sorry to say
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