Design wise, Apple hogs the spotlight, and for good reason: More than just creating a single great product, they’ve really outclassed all competitors in the coherent design language of their entire line. That is, their products are like Voltron. They gain (visual) power when assembled. Sony finally got the memo, and they’ve made a tentative step in that direction, with a new portable mouse, designed to accompany their handsome Vaio P netbooks.
The new mouse, which goes on sale in August for $67, is made of aluminum. A sliding cover protects the scroll wheel, and, when open, powers-on the mouse. It also has a 800dpi laser and a 30-foot range. Granted, it doesn’t have many other features, but that’s a good thing, right? If anything, Japanese designers have really destroyed themselves on the usability front in the last 10 years, with grotesque feature-creep. But the new mouse still has some annoying design quirks: Why does the sliding cover really need an “off” direction? Are people that dumb? Also, why is the wheel for the scroll-wheel so wonky? It looks like an afterthought, especially with the beveled edge. C’mon! The design looks great with closed, but open–it’s a bit like a supermodel missing a tooth. Why can’t these guys get it right?
But gripes aside, there’s a bigger design challenge: Discipline. That is, finding a design language and evolving it gradually over time, rather than ditching it wholesale every time a vice president hyperventilates from reading an analyst report. So far, no Japanese company really has the hang of that.