Microsoft is reinventing the mouse wheel, adding tilt wheel technology for horizontal scrolling and smoothing the vertical scroll motion, the company said.
The tilting wheel allows a user to scroll left and right as well as up and down without having to use the on-screen navigation bars. This can be handy when working on a large spreadsheet or trying to view an unwieldy website, Microsoft said.
The company is planning to launch three mice with the new tilting wheel on 3 September, one corded and two cordless operating at 27MHz, a Microsoft spokeswoman said. The mice will also have a feature that lets users toggle between open applications on a PC by pressing down on the wheel, she said.
Eight out of 10 mice sold in the US have a scroll wheel, according to research by NPD Techworld. However, Microsoft said it found strong demand for horizontal scrolling in its own research.
Microsoft rival Logitech introduced a button to switch between applications a year ago, but does not believe there is demand for horizontal scrolling.
"It is not to say that horizontal scrolling is good or bad, but the things that customers say they want to do with their mouse are the things we have already implemented," said Lloyd Klarke, a senior product manager with Logitech.
He also said there is a clear purpose for the "clicks" a user feels when scrolling vertically.
With Microsoft's new wheel there are no clicks when scrolling up and down. Logitech studied the clicks and found them key to the scrolling experience, Klarke said.
"Customers need to know that they are moving to the next line. What they don’t want is either absent or overemphasised clicks. We spent a long time measuring to get the right feel," he said.
The new Microsoft mice will be sold worldwide. Further product and pricing details will be announced at the launch.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service