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 murder.
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 THIS YET?
- 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.)