Apple’s Worst Product

In 2005 Apple introduced the worst product in its history. Never has an Apple product shown such disdain for its users. Never has an Apple product been based upon such false assumptions. (And I’m including Quickdraw GX in that assessment.) It looks like this:

Apple Mighty Mouse

From its appearance you’d probably think it innocuous, but you’d be wrong. It’s a Mighty Mouse, and it’s Apple’s answer to those who have been clamoring for Apple to add a right-mouse button, Windows-style, onto the Mac. Even Walt Mossberg hates it.

The Mighty Mouse is allegedly innovative because it can function as both a one-button Mac-style mouse, and a two-button Windows-style mouse. Why someone would want such a thing is as confusing as the Mighty Mouse is over-designed.

There’s a now-ancient reasoning behind the Mac’s single mouse button, and that reason seems noble enough: users shouldn’t ever be confused about which button to push. But Windows 95 taught users–and taught them well–how to use two mouse buttons, and I can feel safe in saying that because of the overwhelming popularity of the Windows platform, the Mac mouse has become harder to use because it bucks such a pervasive trend. (I don’t know if anyone at Apple has watched Windows users–even fairly inexperienced ones–use their mice, but they do it with aplomb.)

After a decade’s worth of users clamoring for a two-button mouse from Apple, they finally obliged–haltingly–with the Mighty Mouse. Why did Apple put up such a fight? It’s a complete mystery to me. My only thought is that the fossilized one-button reasoning turned into legend, and Apple has come to believe it as religion. Why did Apple think the Mighty Mouse was the answer? Again, it’s a mystery.

The first time I used a Mighty Mouse I had quite a bit of difficulty pulling off a right-click. It turned out my index finger wasn’t resting in the proper position on the mouse; once I completely altered how I click mice it started working. The thing that struck me almost immediately was: “how would I ever tell someone over the phone how to use this thing?” Well, my perverse fantasy came true today. My wife and I bought an iMac for her mother, and the confused user in question wasn’t my mother-in-law, it was my wife. I was describing over the phone how to right-click. “It’s not working,” she said. The first problem–there were many–was that right-clicking on the Mighty Mouse isn’t even enabled by default. A quick trip to System Preferences changed that. But then it still wasn’t working. My wife, since she couldn’t see the “right mouse button,” was clicking on the little button on the side. Even after correcting that issue, it still wasn’t working. Since I wasn’t there to see what she was doing I have absolutely no idea what was going wrong; however, after about thirty more seconds of frustration she finally got it to work.

This is a mouse we’re talking about here. It took a phone call, a trip to System Preferences, and about three minutes to figure out how to use it. It’s a case of Apple putting up a ridiculous barrier to Windows users learning the Mac, and it’s as silly–though more confounding–as their refusal to put a second button on their laptops. (By the way: the day they do that, I know a lot of Windows users who are going to buy their first MacBook.)


19 thoughts on “Apple’s Worst Product

  1. I agree with you on most points — the Mighty Mouse is a poorly designed product. Requiring you to remove your finger from the left side of the mouse in order to click the “right” button is a huge annoyance, and one I certainly wouldn’t put up with.

    On the other hand, I have experience that contradicts the idea that all Windows users are perfectly at home using the right mouse button. I do a lot of tech support for people of varying skill levels, and when I tell them to click something, I am constantly asked “with the left button?”. Especially when it comes to right-clicking, it’s not uncommon that I can’t just say “right-click”, but have to back up and say “press the button on the right side of the mouse”. My own parents NEVER comfortably grasped the difference between left- and right-clicking, and now that they have a Mac, it isn’t an issue.

    So there are definitely people out there who benefit from not having to choose which button to use. I think it’s a reasonable compromise that OS X supports and uses the right button, but it’s never necessary to perform any operation. And of course you can always bring your own mouse. But, that said, the Mighty Mouse is a flop.

  2. I am an avid mac user and I had slight concern over the mighty mouse for those reasons. However, I got used to the mouse very fast and love all of its features such as being able to click the scroll ball, the side buttons, and more. I understand your frustration though.

  3. My vote is Yay for the Mighty Mouse! It is an absolute pleasure to use and the power it unleashes in the way I use my machine has put a smile on my face on several occasions.

    I am not your average Mac user. As I type this I have a Python program I am writing open in my Aquamacs emacs editor, three terminal windows, three multi-tabbed browsers, calendar, mail, Skype and a half-dozen stickies spread over three virtual desktops on both the laptop’s screen and an external 21″ LCD configured as the primary screen.

    I cannot fault Apple’s intention to simplify the way people use computers by removing features that are present on virtually every other platform in current use. Don’t even mention Unix systems with their three button mice! The concept of a single, obvious, mouse button certainly helps the sales of machines to people of average intelligence or ambition. Those people are quite happy going through all the extra steps a single button demands or holding down the loathsome “ctrl” key to do with two hands what they could have done with one. Those people only use their machines to play their music and movies, look at their photo collection and surf their InterWebs. They are not the sort you will find enjoying the experience of manouvering a stick-shift Audi around the canyons.

    My only disappointment with a new MacBook Pro was the lack of a second button on the trackpad. You can emulate this functionality by switching on a two finger touch and click in the preferences but why am I being forced to re-learn the way I interface to a modern, state of the art machine?

    The next day I bought myself a wireless Mighty Mouse and it’s totally brilliant! It goes with me everywhere and I use it even when I’m mobile if I have to do any serious work.

    I cannot see how there could be any problem making the right click. I use my index finger for the left and my middle finger for the right. This is exactly where they rest while I’m holding the mouse. Works every time, always has, right out of the box. If I was the sort of person who preferred to move their index finger to make the right click, I find that works also. I move my index finger to use the trackball in the middle but for the energy I expend doing this bring me the freedom to scroll around freely in all directions without reaching for the keyboard.

    The feared Unix-like third button (clicking the trackball) is setup to access the iconic task switcher and jump easily between applications. Squeezing the side buttons is configured to Expose (all windows). I do think that the force required to activate the side buttons is a bit too much and it does cause one to turn the mouse a little away from the normal position. This is the only thing about the Mighty Mouse that I feel could bear improvement.

    Arguing whether the second button is necessary becomes a moot point after trying to navigate Second Life on a Mac laptop! Maybe you can do everything without it in OS X but try telling that to those darned application writers. Yay again for the Mighty Mouse!

  4. I tried to purchase a new Mac Mouse when my trusty old one finally died. I was told that they were no longer being made, and that I had to buy the new Mighty Mouse. Mistake #1 was not continuing to offer BOTH types from Mac. Mistake #2 was pricing this new one at $50, well over twice the price of its predecessor. Mistake #3 (as noted in the article) was that the mouse was overly complex, difficult to use, and had a problematic track ball (mine lasted 6 days). Being a hardcore Mac guy, I bought it. To date, my only Mac disappointment. I ditched it for a simple Microsoft Blue mouse ($15 at Wal-Mart), and I now enjoy the best of both worlds.

  5. 1. Your Disney theme park posters are phenomenal. I want to eat them. You should run the design department at Imagineering. Hell, you should run the company.

    2. I love my Mighty Mouse. For right clicking I just push to the right, for left clicking I just push left or center. I haven’t had a lick of a problem. Fast, intuitive. Don’t see what the problem is. Infact, I have a much more difficult time with Mouses that have buttons because then I have to be much more specific about where I touch.

    3. I still respect you.

  6. Well, I don’t actually OWN a Mighty Mouse, but I’ve used it at the Apple Store. First of all, it takes me a minute to get used to the whole “mouse” concept at all, ’cause my primary computing device has been an iBook, in various iterations, ever since the original in 1998.

    HOWEVER, after becoming so used to using the control key to bring up the contextual menu, when I’m actually USING a Mighty Mouse, I tend to use that, instead of the second button.

    BUT, because I’ve also become so accustom to two-finger trackpad scrolling, INCLUDING horizontal scrolling, using a Windows mouse with a click-wheel is an exercise in aggravation (or a Windows laptop with a up-down scroll zone on the trackpad), that the second button feature is a moot point for me (were I to actually use a desktop Mac), but the inclusion of the Scroll Ball would be essential.

    PLUS, with the ever-increasing size of desktops (the screen size, that is), I imagine that the side-squeeze and Scroll Ball-click for accessing Exposé & the Dashboard would actually become quite useful (and frankly, if those two functions of the Mighty Mouse confuse users, the Mac OS X features that they are used to access probably do as well–Sorry, Grandma!).

    Actually, if you read Apple’s current page on the product, you’ll find that, rather then being apologetic for holding out so long, you see that the second button is really just a grudging concession, rather then an admittance of a superior design choice (as opposed to the one-button mouse).

    “Alas the fate of the one-button mouse in today’s multibutton world. Who has time for intuitive, elegant design when there is so much clicking to do?”


    “So how about a grain of salt? Or rather, one of those big-ass blocks of salt that cows lick on.”
    ~”Apressado” (aka Braxton Belving), Canto do Galo – Capoeira, Denver, Colorado

  7. I totally agree. I never really used the thing until I got a new editing station that came with it – it’s twitchy and awkward (but I still think it’s pretty)

  8. You’re an idiot!
    Who doesnt like the mighty mouse? Its sophisticated, beautifully designed and it works so well. All the other crap out there are infra and wouldnt last if i pulled it 1 metre away from the receiver but the MM is bluetooth and is totally awesome and cool! Whoever wrote this, you’re a bit of a grandpa and i think its just past your bed time. Go back to using your dots systems, i think you’ll find more comfort there…

  9. I’ll tell you why I like Apple. The same reason why most people secretly enjoy being friends with at least one true couch potato – they make you feel so good about yourself. You look at them and think to yourself, “Man, I may not have reached my goal of a three hour marathon yet, but at least I’m not a boob like this guy.”
    The PC world does not have everything right either, but at least they’re not still trying to figure out what a mouse should do. (seriously that was solved like 10 years ago)

  10. Normally I’d be inclined to remove a comment like #12, not for the sentiment as much as the fact that it’s content-free…but what could be more perfect than a grammar-impaired post like that?

  11. Comment #12 takes the prize.
    The misspelling of the “your” is perfectly ironic to the content of the phrase.

    “Whose” the idiot now?


    Btw, love the MM design, but find that it gives me finger cramps. Anyone else find that?

  12. I actually love the mighty mouse. It works great and has always worked great. I think it’s silly to blame apple for not being able to use the right click. I’m not that tech savvy, and there was really nothing to “figure out” to start using it. PC users always like to complain about how cool Macs are. I’d be jealous too if I was a PC. :)

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