Logitech CEO says mouse to stay

Despite widespread interest in voice recognition technologies the mouse is here to stay, said the head of the world's largest mouse manufacturer at CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, last week.

Guerrino De Luca, Logitech International's president and CEO, dismisses the idea that the voice recognition technologies will make the mouse and the keyboard obsolete in the near future. In contrast to that confidence, the company is expanding into new peripheral markets.

Mice are essential for computing and are here to stay, although more sophisticated models for specialist applications are being developed. said De Luca. "People still use telephones, but they're a lot different than they were 50 years ago."

Logitech, which celebrated the production of its 200 millionth mouse last year, today announced a late 1999 launch date for its WingMan Force-Feedback Mouse, designed for gaming, with an estimated retail price of under $US150.

In 30 years, the mouse has gone through its share of changes. More buttons were added, then the wheel was added, then the cordless mouse was released, now it can react to games. "Force-feedback is amazing," De Luca said. "If you close your eyes, you really feel on the joystick or steering wheel as it is in real life." The mouse was designed with strategic and slow to medium paced sports games in mind. In a game of golf, for example, you would be able to "feel the wind" before you hit the ball.

Although mouse and trackball sales still make up 60 per cent to 70 per cent of Logitech's business, mouse sales are not growing as fast as other Logitech peripherals, according to De Luca.

"We sold 50 million units last year, compared with 32 or 33 million the year before," De Luca said. "We don't see any replacement for the mouse," he added.

In addition to its PC mouse business, Logitech last year won an important agreement with Apple Computer. The company makes the mice for Apple's popular iMac, and also ships its peripherals with the USB (universal serial bus) interface, which is a standard for the Apple market as well as being widely accepted by PCs.

As well as producing joysticks, mice and keyboards, Logitech's purchase of QuickCam from Connectix last September gave them a strong entry into the field of digital video cameras. "Connectix is a software company. They made great software, and they had to build this camera for it," De Luca said. According to De Luca the main competition Logitech faces in the camera field include Intel, Creative Technologies, Philips Electronics and Eastman Kodak.

"We're all in the $US80 to $US200 price range, but by Christmas, I think it will be the $US40 to $US100 price range." he said.

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