Where No Graphical Environment Has Gone Before

Much to the dismay of Microsoft Corp.'s rivals, it sometimes seems everyone in the world who owns a PC is using the company's popular Windows operating system. Now, even the sky's no longer the limit for the Redmond (Wash.) company.

With the latest space shuttle mission, Windows has reached "the final frontier." One of the hindrances to integrating Windows in the space shuttle's portable computers was finding a suitable pointing device--an ordinary mouse won't work properly in a weightless environment. According to Patrick O. Wilson, a project engineer for NASA, the only mouse that would work without expensive modification was Microsoft's $149 Ballpoint Mouse, a handheld "track ball" which rotates in a fixed base. Will this inspire other companies to enter the space race? Not likely. Wilson says NASA is evaluating new notebook PCs that have track balls already built in.