Gartner analyst Steve Prentice may just be being provocative if he is saying that the computer mouse will see a demise within the next five years. That is simply too short a window for a convention as institutionalized as the mouse to disappear as well as too short a time for some of the experimental alternatives he cites to go mainstream. Indeed, mouse R&D continues apace and it is the mouse — not the keyboard — that is driving the input peripheral aftermarket.
All that said, I was actually thinking of less dramatic challengers to the input staple a day or so before Prentice’s prediction made the rounds. How will mouse developers respond to multitouch? I suppose they could add buttons that would simulate certain gestures, but the trackpad is rapidly moving from a second-class input device to one that can circumvent many UI elements (such as scroll bars) originally designed for the mouse. Multitouch gestures are more “natural” than many mouse movements, although there aren’t necessarily intuitive.
Of course, neither is the mouse. I have an enduring memory of a computer novice circa 1990 encountering the computing appendage for the first time. She picked it up and tried dragging icons across the screen by touching them with the mouse. I wonder what she would think of a TouchSmart PC these days.