I came across OS X's Chinese Trackpad Handwriting input method the other day, and was really impressed. Once you activate the handwriting mode(hotkey: Ctrl-Shift-Space), the mouse pointer disappears, and you can use write your chinese character on your trackpad using your finger. The UI looks like this:
What's interesting to me is the buttons on the left and right of the character recognition area. It took me a while to figure out how to use them at first, but after some experimentation, I figured it out: basically, the pretty gray box corresponds to your trackpad, and so to press a button on the upper left corner, you would tap the area in the upper left corner of your trackpad, and so on and so forth. It is very intuitive really. I would even say brilliant. Essentially, the trackpad has been made to work just like the Vistablet or any of the tablet accessories you can get from the Apple store these days.
Which got me thinking, how far can we take this? Can we use this to say...draw? A couple of google searches later, I discovered the Inklet from Ten One Design. The Inklet is an application, which is primarily used with a stylus you can buy from the same company called the Pogo Sketch.
The Pogo Sketch is a pressure sensitive stylus that works with the Apple trackpads as well as the iphone and ipod touch. With Inklet and the Pogo Sketch together, you basically have the features of Vistablet. Here's their demo using Photoshop:
Brilliant, brilliant stuff. Another why-didn't-I-think-of-that moment for me. The lesson from all of this is that, at least for the new Macs, you can do a lot more with the trackpad than you thought(or at least I thought). For some types of applications, it may make sense to completely do away with the mouse pointer and use a tablet-style interface instead, and we can do this NOW! (Yes, now - three days before the imminent release of the Apple Tablet). Tablet doubters, just you wait, tablets will be the way of the future. In 5-10 years(oh this could be another Fourcast prediction), the mice could be heading towards extinction. Just you wait.