Apple launched its Magic Trackpad with little fanfare, just a press release; even that prioritised the new iMacs over this new control device. Despite the quiet launch, the Magic Trackpad could be a game changer in many ways.
Here are some ways that the Magic Trackpad could transform the world of computing forever.
1. Death to the mouse
In just a few short years we’ve seen mobile phones stripped of their buttons. In many Western countries you’ll struggle to find much choice if you want a phone with a traditional keypad. Beyond the most basic handsets it’s often touchscreen or bust. That’s all down to the overnight success of the iPhone in 2007. It was the other handset manufacturers switching to touchscreens as a result that caused the near death of keypads in many markets though
If the big, cheap PC vendors like Dell take to the trackpad idea, there could be no stopping it. Three years from now we could be wondering why we ever bothered with a mouse. Ten years from now, when businesses have all completely replaced their computing hardware, the mouse could be dead forever.
2. The next generation TV remote control
We’ve discussed the potential for the next generation of the Apple TV set top box before. Imagine running iOS on your TV, complete with a wide range of Apple TV-optimised apps. How are you going to control that? A standard Apple remote control? No way – it just wouldn’t work for an OS with touch control at its core. That’s where the Magic Trackpad comes in, making controlling all those apps as natural as tapping on an iPhone screen.
It could be the perfect way to get the masses into interactive TV; they might not all opt for Apple’s solution but as with the iPod, iPhone and iPad, once the public sees it they’ll all want something similar, kickstarting the next generation of TV in the process.
3. Apple can break into the console market
Stick the OS on a widescreen, HD TV and all sorts of things become possible. With the Magic Trackpad as its control device, Apple could take on the casual end of the home console market, especially with everything else that an Apple TV or even a Mac Mini attached to your TV, can do. For all but the most hardcore gamers, that could be a highly attractive proposition.
It could even lead traditional console manufacturers to consider buttonless controllers themselves. The success of Nintendo’s Wii motion controls leading to similar controllers from from Sony and Microsoft shows that console manufacturers don’t want to miss out on a good thing.
4. iOS on Mac. Yes, really
As we mentioned above, the Magic Trackpad is the perfect device for bringing iOS control to the TV, so why not the Mac too? iOS is a goldmine for Apple; the App Store, iAds, iBooks – it all adds up to a locked-down moneymaking machine.
While the idea of running iOS on a desktop machine won’t appeal to everyone, it could be a great way of giving users the option of running apps and games in a ‘safe’ environment that’s almost guaranteed to run smoothly without crashing. That’s something you can’t say about OSX. If you throw in the money to be made from iOS it seems to make sense that Apple will be considering allowing Macs to boot into the same version of iOS that future Apple TV boxes are likely to run on.
In the shorter term, iBooks for OSX seems highly likely.
5. A whole new wave of computer art
Tablets are great for drawing while a mouse isn’t. Computer artists have bought specialist tablets to create stunning, intricate work for years. If we’re suddenly all using tablets, we could be looking at a whole new world of computer art that’s accessible to everyone. There would need to be a pen designed to work with the Magic Trackpad but that’s not insurmountable.
While the ‘professionals’ will always have an advantage thanks to their talent and passion, the very fact that we’ll all be using tablets could make it akin to the way the digital camera revolution suddenly gave everyone the opportunity to be a better photographer overnight.