Microsoft’s Minimal Mouse May Maximize Masochism

So it seems that Microsoft has a patent in process for a folding mouse.  It looks a whole lot like their Arc mouse, which is quite thin and already goes from curved to flat. But that’s apparently not good enough for Microsoft, who says mice in general are bulky and cumbersome to travel with. On the bright side, they do acknowledge the total lack of ergonomics in those tiny travel mice.

Microsoft filed this patent in March of 2021 and it was published in early November. The patent describes the use of an expandable shell on the top with these kerf cuts in the long sides like those used to bend wood — this is where the flexibility comes in. The patent also mentions a motion tracker, haptic feedback, and a wireless charging coil. Now remember, there’s no guarantee of this ever actually happening, and there was no comment from Microsoft about whether it will become a real rodent someday.

And now, the rant. Microsoft considers this mouse, which again is essentially an updated Arc that folds in half, to be ergonomic. Full disclosure: I’ve never used an Arc mouse. But I respectfully disagree with this assessment and believe that people should not prioritize portability when it comes to peripherals, especially those that are so small to begin with. Like, what’s the use? And by the way, isn’t anyone this concerned with portability just using the touch pad or steering stick on their laptop anyway?

The Pencil Principle

Patent drawing of a folding mouse from Microsoft.
Image via Patentscope

We can’t really think of any advantages to a folding mouse other than portability, and the fact that it’s interesting looking and makes for a cool party trick. And while there are no serious drawbacks to the folding itself, this is a slip of an input device and it looks really uncomfortable to use, because there’s hardly anything to hold on to.

You know what this makes me think of? The pencil principle. When you were just leaning to write, what did you use? Do you remember grasping a really thick pencil in your kindergarten grip? Those husky pencils are still given to small children because they are easier to use than regular pencils. This bigger-is-better-principle is true for sewing needles, too, and tool grips, and tons of other stuff. Everything meant for handling has some kind of minimum viable size where it goes from unusable to usable.

What do you think? If you do a lot of computing on the go, does it bother you to carry around a standard mouse? Are you a loyal Arc user who is dying to see this folding upgrade come to fruition? Let us know in the comments.

53 thoughts on “Microsoft’s Minimal Mouse May Maximize Masochism

    1. It’s about carrying it in a bag, and not just because of the unsightly bump: when I had to, I took care to stow the laptop with the screen on the opposite side of the mouse so it wouldn’t break in case of a fall.

  1. I’m not sure if it’s reasonable to evaluate a product’s ergonomics without actually touching the product. Also, mice are weird, because different people hold them very differently. I dislike the arc mouse, but I loved the iMac puck mouse, because it fit very well with how I grip mice.

  2. So, the mouse that flattens has one cook trick. The curved/flat works as an on/off switch for the mouse.

    Want to turn it off, just flatten it.

    That said, I hate it and will never buy one.

    Long live the Logitech MX Master!

    1. I prefer my Razer Deathadder, but to each their own.

      I can’t stand tiny portable mice, as I find them all but unusable with my large, clumsy hands. I suspect that the mouse from this article wouldn’t be an improvement to my experience in any way.

    2. Which raises the question of why a mouse needs an on/off switch.
      My Logitech cordless optical mouse has no on/off switch. I feed it a new battery about once a year.
      Not new technology either: this is at least 10 years old.

      1. If your mouse stays on the desk and isn’t moved except when used, that’s great. It goes to sleep on its own.

        If your mouse rides around in a pocket, a bag, or otherwise spends a lot of time moving around when it isn’t actually being used, you need a power switch. I use a Logitech cordless also and if I leave it switched on it’ll kill the battery in a week of riding in my backpack every day.

      2. It’s simple, many work laptops don’t go to sleep when closed. If you just toss the mouse in a bag, you have no idea what it will have clicked while you walked to a conference room.

        PS. The mice we are talking about are clearly not intended for Desktop station use, but for laptops and specifically those that travel even short distances often.
        Pre-covid I had to talk to conference rooms at least a few times per week, other people have many more meetings and such.

    3. MX Master 3, you just don’t know till you grip it, then infinite scroll it, then start to map the 10+ possible buttons. One mouse to rule two computers at once simultaneously. File sharing simply by dragging items from one screen to the next. From laptop screen to desktop for example.

      Physical power switch included =)

  3. I have a Macbook. With a giant touchpad. Which is pressure sensitive and can be clicked all over (so no side with a hinge where you can’t press down on the pad). Who needs a mouse when they’re going portable?

      1. What I meant to say is that most people lug a mouse around with their laptop because the touchpads on those things is near unusable. And with a Macbook you get a touchpad that is very usable, and consequently you don’t care so much anymore about the mouse.

        Basically the crap touchpads are why people lug their mouse around with them.

        But you’ll only understand once you tried a Macbook’s touchpad.

        I am not promoting Apple (although I agree that it does come down to that). I am just wondering for a few years now why other laptopbuilders keep insisting on those useless trackpads. Causing millions of people to lug a mouse around with their laptops.

        I have done it too. But not anymore since I have a Macbook.

        Basically people are lugging around a mouse because laptopbuilders chose to cut costs on the touchpad.

        1. …no, that’s not it. I’ve used a macbook a ton before, and it’s nowhere good as the trackpoint in the middle of a dell or thinkpad keyboard, which is better than a regular mouse, which is better than the trackpad, even on a brand new macbook. Maybe you like the macbook’s trackpad better than a regular mouse, but that is definitely not a universal truth.

          1. Can’t do a three finger swipe with a mouse. Can’t pinch to zoom with a mouse. Can’t detect finger force with a mouse. Maybe you can fake these things with a mouse but it’s not intuitive, it’s like drawing with a bar of soap.

            A mouse is a vicious hack anyway, just a flipped over trackball, an artificial artifact from a primitive age, an abomination. Scotty had it right when he picked it up and started talking to it.

          2. The Dell Trackpoint is utter garbage. It is laggy, imprecise, feels like shit and has no proper skipback. But that suits the Dell laptops well, which are garbage, too, most of the time.

        2. when you talk about ergonomics/comfort and habits technical aspect don’t matter so much. I for example will always prefer a big mouse to a touchpad no matter how good or expensive it is.

        3. I have used a lot of trackpads, including the ones on Macbooks. They are no substitute for a mouse for me. Sure, you can use gestures with them. But you can’t easily do any kind of click-drag operation, and you have the problem of accidental palm activations. No thank you.

          1. The gestures are primarily replacements for mouse and keyboard functions for devices that have neither. Who wants to pinch to zoom a dozen times when you can hold Ctrl and give your mouse wheel a nice long scroll? Why swipe when you can just click a window? I don’t like any touch pad even though I often use them. They’re all replacements for something that would be better if it were available or convenient.

        4. “Basically the crap touchpads are why people lug their mouse around with them.”

          If this touchpad is so good I believe they would sell it separately to free you from mouse. More than that – they would stop prducing mouses. But they don’t because at some tasks simple mouse is still better than sophisticated touchpad.

          “But you’ll only understand once you tried a Macbook’s touchpad.”

          I have heard something similar about iPhone.

    1. I like my pointing device to not be integrated into the wrist wrest. It brings my hands too close to my chest I feel. If I push the laptop away to use the trackpad then the keyboard is too far away.

      My Asus zenbook duo moves the keyboard to the front edge and the trackpad alongside it where the numpad would normally be. Then it puts a second screen near the hinge but that’s besides the point. I find that trackpad position a lot better since it’s more like a tenkeyless keyboard and mouse combination on a desk. You can position the laptop the perfect distance away to use both. Shame the trackpad is so small because of its location but you can’t win them all.

    2. You mean the thing that is now so large that using the keyboard in an ergonomic position is no longer possible? I use an external keyboard and mouse largely because of it and will gladly travel with a small but more ergonomic mouse to avoid it; however, the pad does work better than its predecessor in a pinch. It is just too durn big.

      I agree with the other comment about personal preference. I find the Apple magic mouse to be uncomfortable and difficult to use, but lots of people swear by them.

      To me this entire debate is akin to the one over number of useful buttons on a mouse, which in my opinion influenced the size of that mac trackpad and somewhat forces you to learn the “arcane” multi-finger patterns required to get the most use out of it.

      I am reminded of the aphorism attributed to Einstein of “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”.

      1. “You mean the thing that is now so large that using the keyboard in an ergonomic position is no longer possible? ”

        Yeah, my ThinkPad has both a touch pad and eraser head. I’m just not used to the eraser head, and my hands often brush against the touch pad sending the cursor on a random desktop journey. ergo, I pack a wireless mouse with my laptop.

  4. It seems about as genuinely useful as a folding screen on a phone. I can’t see the point of either except as “gee-whiz, look at my cool folding mouse/phone screen”. Doing things just because you can is silly when it costs so much.

    How about making an ergonomic mouse like the Logitech MX vertical that has an inflatable body so that it can pack smaller and get enlarged when in use? It might even be possible to have it fit different sized hands depending on the amount it gets inflated… Imagine the comments you’ll get when people see you blowing up your mouse!

  5. I still prefer my original MX1000 laser mouse. The original and imho the best of the line. The rubber on the scroll wheel has perished and it needed a new battery and new skates a few years ago, but otherwise it’s still going strong.

    1. That’s the HaD version of what a folding (origami style) mouse might look like. The MS one is the roundish trilobite looking thing in the patent sketch. The HaD version looks much better IMO.

  6. My take on this:
    I’m a longtime Linux user and my daily driver is a thicc thinkpad docked to a triple monitor setup, mechanical keyboard and ergonomic sideways mouse and everything.

    Recently, I jumped on the Windows bandwagon with a teeny Surface Go 2 tablet/laptop and an Arc mouse. The mouse took a bit of getting used to, but you know what? It’s not terrible. I realized that, unless a travel mouse is actually big enough to fill to the back of my giant hand (which even the venerable Logitech M510 can’t quite do), I have to grip it with my fingers anyway – at that point ergonomics fly out the window and don’t matter anymore. It’s still better than a touchpad and not as good as a “nipple”. The laptop as a whole isn’t great to use for extended periods of time, but it’s absolutely wonderful for classes and meetings and those times when I just feel like working in a different room. The flatness is great for those compact laptop cases, where even a small mouse will make a big bulge. And it’s still better than that flat Apple mouse that stays flat even when in use.

    So in a way I agree with the author – they say that all travel mice are terrible so you should just bring a good mouse; I say that all travel mice are terrible so it doesn’t matter which one you use.

  7. What I think? I think that if people buy this mouse and find it useful, good for them? Why others (and the author in particular) should be bothered that there are more options than before? It is a bit like viewing online a menu of a pizza parlor and complaining that they have things I do not like…

    1. Exactly.

      I do own that Arc Touch mouse and it’s actually great

      Best thing for travel ever! (and actually pretty decent when it comes to ergonomics AND durable enough to have lasted me nearly a decade now – it does need a middle button though!)

      Is it the best mouse? No. (I prefer Trackballs anyways)

      But it has it’s uses.

    2. Absolutely right. This article is unfairly negative. The author outspokenly negatively reviewing the ergonomics of the mouse where it is still just a concept is bad journalism. And even if they do not like the design, other people might. This product coming to market does only increase choice for consumers. I personally find the design interesting. Owned an Arc mouse and liked the design and foldability as well. The whole article is weird – why does the author feel so strongly about this. Why are they so outspoken about it?

  8. “Microsoft considers this mouse, which again is essentially an updated Arc that folds in half, to be ergonomic.”

    And when you unfold it it is therefore twice as ergonomic. It’s also organic, macrobiotic, and eco-friendly. Or something. /s

    FWIW you can get “mini” mice from the usual sources (or occasionally as giveaways at trade shows) that work just fine.

  9. “And by the way, isn’t anyone this concerned with portability just using the touch pad or steering stick on their laptop anyway?”

    Translation: The author doesn’t want one and thinks nobody else should want one.

    I know a lot of differently able people who are unable to use touchpads or sticks who need to use a physical mouse. Many of these people might need something ultra portable.

    That said, I think this particular mouse, if it ever materializes, may be a bit of a niche product.

  10. Earth to Microsoft. Bring back the Trackball Optical 1.0, as the 1.1 with the steel bearing points replaced with silicon carbide, like Logitech and other companies use so they don’t get flat spots and make the ball drag in the socket.

  11. Once upon a time this (MCL PCMCIA Bluetooth MoGo Mouse) existed. I got mine with a Toshiba R25 and it didn’t see much use. A niche product competing with ring mice (or whatever is the name for the contraption that is a HID that is worn on a finger) and other exotic peripherals.

  12. Love how the author hasn’t even used an Arc Mouse, yet feels compelled to tell us how this (which he also hasn’t used), will be horrible. Really Hackaday, why do you feel compelled to give someone who lacks any real standing to subject us to their opinions. I have used an Arc Mouse, rather like it. I prefer mice to touchpads, the Arc mouse has many great features, but the killer was the ability to flatten so it could go easily into my case with my laptop without it or the laptop being damaged easily because of the big “bump” in my laptop case. It was incredibly handy. I don’t know how many people saw me using it at work, who I later saw buy one after trying mine. So Handy! I’m ready to give this a try, adding sides and more grippable surface to an Arc like mouse sounds like a win to me!

  13. I love when people with no personal use for a product decide that the product is not necessary. I constantly travel for work, and if a mouse can be built that folds flat but still assembles to feel good in the hand, I would absolutely be interested. I hate using a touchpad.

  14. Good idea but in reverse – unfold to make it flat for transport and fold it to make it bulky when in use.

    As much as I hate MS, I am also aware that their ergonomic keyboards have strong fan base so they do know how to make input hardware.

  15. Why even write this article if you haven’t even once tried the Arc mouse? That seems like a basic prerequisite for even starting a conversation. Of course this won’t be for everyone, but as someone who travels all the time (pre covid) various iterations off the Arc mouse have been my go-to mouse for years. Compact travel nice are as you say too small and uncomfortable, but the Arc when folded is a very good mouse that fits the hand nicely, that’s the whole point. If they can make this more highly folded mouse anywhere near as good as the Arc then it may be great.

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