Sure, sure the mouse won on desktop and the trackpad won on laptop.
IBM's magnificent Trackpoint is a tiny minority share of the pointer
market on both, maybe even headed for extinction. Even Lenovo has
been leaving it off some 'Thinkpads'.
I use a Trackpoint keyboard on my workstation. I own Thinkpads almost
entirely because of Trackpoint (and because they used to have a
keyboard layout that didn't suck. Too bad about that part. It's another
reason to fear for Trackpoint when Lenovo's goal seems to be 'corner
the market on cheap black Macbooks').
Anyway I realized a few things the other day...
Although I do use a mouse in GIMP and Inkscape about half the time, I
use Trackpoint exclusively for everything else. Even gaming. I just
can't get the same kind of reaction speed or precision with the
mouse. It feels wrong. Don't even get me started about trackpads-- I
have to actively battle those things.
Anyway, I've been using Trackpoint (and the seven-row Thinkpad
keyboard) for 22 years, ever since the original Thinkpad 700C of
1993. That's more than half my life. I don't want to give either one
up, especially not Trackpoint. Not even on the desktop.
And you know what? I don't have to. I'm an engineer. If it comes to
it, I can make them my own bloody self.
(The patents are also expired, which means I can sell them ;-)
All that said, there are a few things I dislike about desktop
Trackpoints currently available. If I'm going to make one, I'm going
to make the one I actually want.
- Stick in the usual place, but one that can take soft dome, rim or
cat-tongue caps. In fact, paging Captain Obvious, it should use the same caps as sold for Thinkpads (the RT3200 keyboard gets
this right). The weird narrow-mount Trackpoint II caps used by the
M13 are getting impossible to find anyway.
- Speaking of the M13 (which is the most disappointing of all Model M
keyboards-- especially the black ones made by Maxi Switch
were often crap build quality), having only two buttons was
unforgivable even at the time.
- The three-button Trackpoint IV is better but still an obsolete
configuration. I've had a middle-button scroll wheel on my mouse for
about 15 years now. Scroll wheel won. It's standard equipment. It's hard to live without.
Sure, sure, there are tricks to have side and vertical scroll on
Trackpoint IV, but that's overloading the functionality in ways that
mistrigger constantly. 'Push harder to scroll' is a decision right up
there with 'we don't need physical mouse buttons, we'll just paint
colored strips on the trackpad'.
- Naturally, this all should be implemented in accessible code on
something like an Xwhatsit, Teensy, Arduino, etc, that can output
native USB or even PS2 without translation layers. Enough of this
'you can only have Trackpoint by buying a licensed chip with the
firmware already on it'.
- A Trackpoint with scroll wheel must look, feel and seem right. It
should make purists think "what took so long?" not scream bloody
So how about something simple and straightforward like this?
(Another possible alternate is to keep the middle button as it usually
is on a modern Trackpoint IV, and put the wheel in the middle of a
split spacebar. That prevents the problem of 'scroll when I want to
click' and vise versa. I think the placement is significantly
inferior however. I mention it mainly to establish prior art ;-)
Silly as it seems, I think a blue rubber O-ring or stripe on the wheel is key
visually. It ties the whole room together. I'm so totally
making this thing. And while I'm at it... it's going into a model F.
It's so obvious. It's so obviously right. WHY HAS NO ONE ELSE MADE
- Your keyboard's integrated pointing device just became even more lewd.
(a final aside: Peter Bright at ArsTechnica has a
fantastic shades-of-Jon-Stewart rant
about Lenovo's recent keyboards. It captures my feelings on the
subject quite well.)