Apple yesterday released an innovative product – the Magic Trackpad. I spent today using mine on a desktop, and I’ve got to say – it’s a good thing.

If you’ve used any of the recent Macbook (and/or MBP) trackpads, you’ll already know how to use the thing at least by feel. You’ll have to install the latest Magic Trackpad and Multi-Touch Update through Software Update on your Mac (? > Software Update…), and you’ll need to pair the device with your OS from the Bluetooth menu (make sure you turned on the trackpad by pressing the round power button on the side of the battery compartment). It paired quickly when I added it, and immediately worked to control my desktop.

Some of the multitouch gestures took a couple times to remember, but after using it all of today, I’m quickly accessing all of them easily. It already seems natural to simply flick my fingers up with four on the pad to bring up Expose, or 3 to the left/right, or “back” and “forwards” to move in the browser history. A four finger swipe left or right brings up your application switcher (Cmd + Tab before, well and still). If those already seem like too much info – after a few hours of using the trackpad I was surprised how quickly they came to mind.

This is an innovative move from Apple – in 1984 they released the first successful PC to use a mouse, and yesterday’s Magic Trackpad release is the first major player moving AWAY from the mouse as your primary interaction with your PC (desktop, that is – laptops obviously have had trackpads a while now). Wacoms have been around a bit and do this, but are aimed at graphic designers and artists – they are controlled by a pen, not your hand, and feel the same – you’re interacting with the computer through a tool. The Magic Trackpad is interesting – you feel as if you’re physically grabbing the icon or window when you move it, not moving the mouse to do so. It’s the same feeling you get on your Macbook Pro, but now with your desktop.

A major thing I notice as well is it physically feels nicer to use than a mouse. I’ve got the Magic Mouse on my desktop, which is pretty slim as mouses go, but the Magic Trackpad (there’s a lot of Magic on my desktop apparently) is a more natural hand position. At the end of a day using a mouse, my hand generally cramps up a bit, and I don’t get that same thing on my laptop. Time will tell on the Magic Trackpad/desktop combo, but so far it seems better. It’s also nice to have it the exact same height and slant as the Mac keyboard – moving your hand to the trackpad is smooth. I usually have the most empty space on my desk right by my mouse for all the movement it needs to get around the screen – this solves that issue as well. No more bumping the monitor or stuff on the desk, since the trackpad stays in one place.

I’m not a huge gamer, and haven’t tested the Magic Trackpad in use as a controller for a game. My brother is a gaming kid, and took one look at the thing and laughed. It’d be interesting to see something to allow you to tie specific gestures to various elements of a game, whether through a third-party mod or support actually being built into a game (although I’m sure that’s a while off still). A mouse is a gamer’s all-in-all, with a myriad of buttons to tie to all sorts of actions. Even with that though, the gestures capability of the Magic Trackpad allows for wayyyy more customizable action points – it’d be interesting to see how that pans out. Imagine using TWO Magic Trackpads to control a game – one hand moving the character, the other being used to control various actions. Some cool possibilities there as this progresses.

For $69, the Magic Trackpad is available now through Apple. Oh, and it doesn’t work with PPC – Intel only.