The red TrackPoint ball we see on computers nowadays was a product of the IBMs ThinkPads for many years. The button disappeared for a while when Lenovo bought the IBM computing business, though returning due to the high enterprise demand. Microsoft is now looking to take advantage of the demand and upgrade the much-loved track-pointer with some new twists.
Details of a patent application were published last week by the US Patent and Trademark Office for such a device. The publication shows that Microsoft is thinking of adding the loved track-pointer feature to its future Surface Books. The news comes as no surprise and might help the company in its bid to make its high-end version of laptops a staple in the enterprise environments. Developing a new version of the classic track-pointer may be helpful for any success.
The TrackPoint idea is presumed to have been from Microsoft first, but they never acted upon it and rather IBM picked it up for its own use in the 1990s ThinkPad laptops, which proved to be popular with the feature.
The new TrackPoint that Microsoft plans to put is more of the yesteryears. The malleable plastic red ball is pushed around moving the cursor around the screen with it. It can also be pressed down to simulate a mouse or trackpad click. The advancements however over the past 20 years since it was introduced will make the gel red ball do so much more.
In the details of the patent publication, the sensor surface underneath the gel pointing device is able to understand the levels of force being applied, thereby it has Force Touch like capabilities. The sensors included also have fingerprint detection mechanism, making it an authentication device as well.
The application date written in the patent is December 2015, meaning Microsoft has had plenty of time to develop the TrackPoint technology to include in any future Surface Book. However, all this said, patent applications can precede actual application of technologies by many years, so we might even see the technology after a long time.
Microsoft did not comment on the patent application, which if anything only added more mystery to where this is headed. With that being said, the company wants to start the TrackPoint process and ensure that no other tech company will beat them to it.