This Startup Has A Special Thumbthing

What has a six-foot tail, weighs less than 1.5 ounces, and can operate a personal computer? Answer: Thumbelina, said to be the world's smallest computer mouse. Made by Appoint Inc., a Paso Robles (Calif.) startup, the matchbook-size Thumbelina can control the on-screen actions of any Apple Computer Macintosh or IBM PC-compatible. The key to the tiny device is a pea-size trackball, which doesn't need to be rolled on a flat surface like an ordinary mouse. Thus, you can sit back from your computer, hold it in your hand, and work the three-button device with just your thumb.

Appoint's competitors are skeptical. An executive with Logitech Inc., one of the leading makers of pointing devices, says people choose mice according to comfort, not size. Still, Appoint President Jack Barrett believes that size counts in the computer industry. He expects his $99 product, available in stores now, to have extra appeal among owners of laptop and notebook computers. In addition, Barrett says hardware makers are already interested in selling it with their PCs.

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