In a December 6, 2006 patent filing with the USPTO Apple's iPhone interface designer Brian Huppi describes a new mouse design that dumps traditional buttons and scroll wheels for a touch/grip-sensitive interface "that is capable of switching between operational modes based on the way a user holds or grips the device's enclosures" according to Apple Insider.
While re-thinking their mouse, Apple is also doing the same for the keyboard.
On April 12, Apple filed with the USPTO for a continuation of their patent application Method and Apparatus for Accelerated Scrolling. Apple's Accelerated Scrolling patent generally relates to the iPod's click wheel. The interesting twist with the continuation of the Apple patent is the inclusion of a picture of a click wheel into a keyboard in place of a numeric pad.
MacNN quotes from the patent: "The keyboard apparatus can also include a button associated with the rotational input unit. As shown in FIG. 7A, the button can be provided at a center region of the rotational input unit. However, the button is not required and, if provided, can be placed elsewhere, such as outside the periphery of the rotational input unit."
I've grown to love my Mighty Mice but I'm not sure about dropping the (almost invisible) mouse buttons and track ball in favor of a totally buttonless design. As for dropping a numeric keypad in favor of a click wheel? Isn't that kind of like going from a touch tone to a rotary dial telephone? I'd love to hear some accountants weigh in on that one.