Before Microsoft unveiled the Surface tablet last week in Los Angeles, it unveiled the mouse. More specifically, the 1983 Microsoft Mouse, which CEO Steve Ballmer hailed as an example of the company’s 30-year history in hardware.
That sentiment—that Microsoft is both a software and hardware company—is one the company stressed several months ago in March, when a group of top engineers and designers showed off a different mouse, the Microsoft Arc Touch, a sleek device that can be physically snapped from a flat to folded position. At the Soho House in New York, in front of a small audience of select journalists, members of Microsoft’s Windows 8, Phone, and Xbox teams discussed all aspects of design at Microsoft. But in retrospect, it’s that Arc Touch mouse that not only offered some hint that Microsoft might be interested in playing a larger role outside software, but also gave insight into much of the inspiration behind how the Surface hardware was designed.