The computer mouse must rank among the most useful things ever invented. Like all great inventions, it's pretty well impossible to even calculate the value that it's brought to society. But many more ways to point at something on a pixellated screen have been developed since the mouse was born back in the sixties. According to an analyst at Gartner, these new methods of pointing and clicking will make the mouse lose its dominance -- perhaps in as few as two to four years.
... next-generation operating systems will sport what I call multitouch, physics and gestures (MPG) user interfaces. They represent the next quantum leap in PC usability. And they have no use for a mouse.
The evolution of user interfaces, in fact, can be viewed as a process of getting the user "closer” to objects on-screen. In the beginning, we interfaced with computers on the other side of the glass, handing punch-cards to an operator for processing. Then we typed abstract commands, but directly on a keyboard. Then we used a mouse to simulate the grabbing and selecting, the dragging and dropping of on-screen objects. In the coming fourth phase, we'll reach out and touch documents, photos and folders directly using iPhone-like user interfaces.
The author outlines four alternatives to mouse pointers that are available or being developed right now. And he includes a link to a nifty demonstration in 1968 by Douglas Englebart of the little rodent that would change the world: