MS Squeaks Back Into Gaming Peripherals With Button-Studded Mouse

Microsoft this week unveiled its SideWinder Mouse during the 2007 Games Convention held in Leipzig, Germany. Designed for the hardcore PC gaming crowd, the mouse marks the revitalization of the SideWinder brand and Microsoft’s reentry into the PC gaming hardware market.

The button-studded, black and red laser mouse boasts an LCD screen for gamers to easily track their actions.

“We’re taking gaming mice to a new level with a mouse created in direct response to gamer feedback from all over the world; it offers superior customization and performance handling,” said Bill Jukes, product manager for Microsoft’s hardware division. “We found that gamers are a lot like performance car enthusiasts. They like to tweak and tune their mouse to get it just right, and today we are giving them the tools to create a personalized experience that lets them focus on what’s important: being at the top of their game.”

Mighty Mouse

The SideWinder boasts a slew of technologies designed to enhance and amplify a PC gamer’s experience. The souped-up mouse has two vertical side buttons, a wide metal scroll wheel and balanced weight.

According to Microsoft, the customizable gaming device is “nearly 5,000 mice in one,” with functionality that includes a new Quick Turn feature built into the software to allow gamers to execute turns on a dime and check their perimeter at any angle from wherever they are in the game with a click of a button.

The customizable mouse allows gamers to choose from three sets of undersides to achieve the perfect feel for different types of gameplay. The so-called feet offer differing levels of glide, depending on the surface used, to match the player’s personal preference.

For those who want a heavier mouse to prevent unwanted twitches and movements, the SideWinder Mouse also features an adjustable weight tray and weight cartridges that comes with four weights — up to 30 grams.

The gadget also features a 2,000-DPI laser engine that provides lightning-fast response time, while three DPI switches located behind the scroll wheel give gamers the ability to toggle between low-, medium- and high sensitivity settings inside the game whenever they want.

Gamers can track their every move with the mouse’s built-in LCD, including their DPI and steps for recording macros without losing focus on the game. Other features, such as the cable management system, which provides the feel of a wireless mouse with the connection speed of its wired cousin, also provides for smoother and more focused gaming, said Microsoft.

The SideWinder Mouse will hit store shelves in October 2007 and will retail for US$79.95. It is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Back in the Game

Microsoft stopped designing and selling PC gaming hardware in 2003 after nearly ten years in the market. The SideWinder brand, launched in 1995, included a variety of peripherals, including a headset, joysticks, PC game pads and steering wheels. The SideWinder Mouse is the first gaming mouse to come from the brand.

After a four-year hiatus, can Microsoft come back strong against entrenched competitors such as Logitech?

“Microsoft hardware has been kind of a mixed bag over the last few years, and Logitech, their largest competitor in the segment, has largely dominated them,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. “The most embarrassing part was they virtually exited PC gaming some time ago because they simply weren’t competitive.”

While many of the features on the SideWinder mouse are not ground-breaking, Enderle noted, “this mouse represents a powerful return to the segment, while few have actually seen the mouse yet — and often products in this class from a variety of vendors look better than they perform — based on the specification this could be a class-leading product.

“The use of an LCD screen on a gaming mouse is new, and while weighting was pioneered by Logitech, Microsoft’s method may have some advantages,” he continued. ” The button placement looks interesting and somewhat uncomfortable, which could be a problem, but the overall ID is consistent with a gaming product, and initial feedback appears to mostly be positive. It’s been a long time since Microsoft made a run at PC gaming. Having them back can only mean better choices for a hardware segment that hasn’t seen a great deal of movement of late.”

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