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A legend reborn: Microsoft brings back the iconic mouse, the Classic IntelliMouse

Written By published June 26, 2018

Microsoft IntelliMouse. Originally launched in 1996, it became instantly famous with gamers and highly regarded as a great gaming mouse. The IntelliMouse 3.0 had exceptional ergonomics due to its the asymmetric from, and sculpted buttons and finger rests, making it fit perfectly into your hand.

It also used long life Omron switches, and coupled with a low force to fire and low key idle, the buttons were easy to press, and activated with minimal slack before engaging the switch. At the time, it also had a very good low DPI optical sensor with very low error rates and good smoothing – all key elements for a great gaming mouse.

Known for always innovating, the IntelliMouse range continued to push the boundaries and offer advances in mouse technology and features until the last model launched in 2003.

Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0 from 2003
Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0 from 2003

Inspired by the Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0 from 2003, Microsoft has recently released the new Microsoft Classic IntelliMouse. Offering the same classic ergonomic look and feel, the new Microsoft Classic IntelliMouse offers improved performance and additional features made possible by technology today.

In remembering the classic mouse, we sat down with Simon Dearsley, Devices Design Director at Microsoft, to discuss the legacy of the Microsoft IntelliMouse and what you can expect from the newest version of the iconic IntelliMouse range.

Can you tell us a little bit about the heritage of the IntelliMouse range from Microsoft?

“Microsoft has a long and rich history of designing incredible mice. The first Microsoft IntelliMouse was released in 1996 and was based on the Microsoft Mouse 2.0 from 1993 and introduced the innovation of the scroll wheel to our users. We saw it as a game changer in terms of ergonomics, tactility and mouse precision.

In 1999 we continued to innovate and refine the IntelliMouse by introducing the first mass market optical tracking sensor and the iconic tail light.

This all culminated in 2003 when we introduced the IntelliMouse 3.0: it had incredible ergonomics with its light weight, sculpted finger rests, and elastomer skirt for amazing comfort and rapid movement and repositioning. The sensor really set the standard at the time for precision and accuracy. This all made the IntelliMouse 3.0 a huge hit with gamers and creative professionals alike.

What many people may not know, is the majority of gaming mice in the world are still patterned off the IntelliMouse 3.0. If you compare almost any modern gaming mouse you’ll see they have the same ergonomic DNA and form as the IntelliMouse. It’s a really significant contribution to the industry that we’re really proud of.”

Why has there been such a long break between IntelliMouse models and why is now the right time to bring it back?

“The timing of the release of the Classic IntelliMouse is really interesting. We’ve reached a point where tracking and switch technology and price has matured immensely. We saw this as an opportunity to improve on an icon by updating it with modern technology. We know how important the IntelliMouse range has been and wanted to take a moment to reflect on the history of it and do something special for our fans.”

What has changed since the 2003 design?

“We improved two really important factors, the tracking sensor and the tactility and feel of the buttons. What we know our fans will see and feel is that it’s the exact same shape and size of the IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0 from 2003. However, underneath the hood it’s all brand-new technology, brand new mechanical engineering and brand-new structures so it’s a lot more rigid than the original. The build quality is really excellent.

We were really careful to keep the same Omron switches for the left and right click, and have added three Kailh switches for the middle wheel button and side buttons. We also made a huge improvement to the two side buttons. They now feel snappy and crisp and have just the right force and click to them.”

What would you say is the defining feature of the new Classic IntelliMouse?

“I would say it’s the shape and the form. The shape was originally sculptured by hand by some of the most experienced mouse designers in the world, which has proven to last the test of time. We felt we should honour this design in the new Classic IntelliMouse and focus on performance updates.”

What’s next in terms of new mice from Microsoft?

“We were one of the original companies to introduce the scroll wheel, which changed how people navigate webpages and documents, and helped with aspects of gaming we now take for granted such as zooming and inventory management. Continuing to innovate is really key for us as we want to build products that make a meaningful difference. Take for instance the Precision mouse scroll wheel and the magnetic detent. From the outside, they might look like minor changes, but they really make a difference to the way you use the mouse.

It’s performance innovations like these and working closer with the community to understand the needs of our consumers that will help influence future Microsoft mice.

We have some exciting products in development and can’t wait to hear the response from fans.”

The Microsoft Classic IntelliMouse is available now through the Microsoft Store and select retailers for $39.99/£39.99/ €44.99.

A legend reborn: Microsoft brings back the iconic mouse, the Classic IntelliMouse