The Mouse Makers Match Apple

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For the last few years, the standard-issue Macintosh mouse and keyboard have been just short of criminal. But now that Apple's great experiment with carpal tunnel syndrome is coming to a close, what does it mean for manufacturers that make a living by selling ergonomically correct mice and full-size keyboards in candy-colored iMac flavors?

Not much, according to several of the third-party manufacturers of input devices.

Correy Happel, marketing director at Macsense, says he views the change as a good thing for their company, largely due to Apple's sales channels and the opportunity to sell upgrades.

"Does it hurt our sales? I think it will help manufacturers in that [the Apple Pro Mouse and Keyboard] didn't go out to resellers," says Happel. "So resellers will turn to third-party manufacturers for replacement products."

Andy Chin, Marketing Manager at Mace Group (Macally), also feels that the new keyboard and mouse won't have a dramatic effect on sales.

Apple Pro Mouse

"During the beige era, [Apple was] making full-sized keyboards and a one-button mouse," Chin pointed out, "and we were making products then. We have been anticipating a better mouse since they introduced the hockey puck. In the computer industry, none of the products will last more than two years.

"The hockey puck mouse only lasted about two years, and during that time our keyboard sales grew more than we expected, but surprisingly, the [one-button] mouse didn't do as well. The two and three-button mouse always sold better."

Both Chin and Happel see their market as professional users who want more functionality than a one-button mouse can provide. Although several of the third-party manufacturers had praise for Apple's new Pro Mouse, most felt that it didn't extend the technology far enough.

"The new mouse is still a one-button mouse," said Chin. "I don't think pro and heavy users will want to use the one-button mouse."

"I really expected a scrolling feature. We expected them to present a wireless optical mouse. That presents an opportunity for us," Happel said, pointing out that Macsense will ship a wireless two-button mouse (AeroMouse) in two to three months that's priced competitively with the Apple Pro Mouse.

The keyboard market will also be affected by Apple's new product line. Again, third-party manufacturers are counting on superior functionality to sell their products. Chin did indicate that he is expecting a drop in sales for some of their keyboards, but thinks others such as the iMediaKey (which features programmable keyboard shortcuts) will pick up the slack.

The iMac's color lines, however, are another story. Most manufacturers are working on matching the new shades, discontinuing some of their current lines, or both.

"Everyone's scrambling to try and find the color tones," said Happel. "We were expecting new colors, but white was the only one I knew about. It does become a headache...for inventory control."

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