The $160 Lesson: Apps Beat Devices

We have Mac Minis connected to all the TVs in our home. I've been using a RF-based keyboard/mouse combo device for several years and not loving it. So one of my new years' resolutions was to find a better approach for our family. Last week, I went out and bought an Apple Wireless Keyboard (bluetooth) and a Gyration Air Mouse (RF). I figured I'd try to fix our main family room setup first and then roll out the solution to the rest of the house.

I had them shipped to my office and was taking them home on Friday. I showed the Gyration Air Mouse which is super cool looking to Andrew and he casually said "I like the Mobile Air Mouse app on the iPhone". I filed that away and went home with my hardware excited about what I had purchased.

I got the Apple Wireless Keyboard to pair with my mac mini and it works well. But like many bluetooth devices, I had some weird pairing issues on reboot and other times and it wasn't as reliable as it needs to be in our family room. And I completely failed on the Gyration Air Mouse. I could not get it to work on my Mac Mini or on my Mac laptop either (I tried that just to see if there was something awry with the Mac Mini). I am not sure if the Gyration Air Mouse issue is operator error (me) or something wrong with the one I bought. Who cares at the end of the day? I could not get it to work.

So in frustration, I pulled out the iPod touch we use as a Sonos and Boxee remote in our family room and downloaded the Mobile Air Mouse app from the iTunes store for $1.99. You have to download free "server software" for the device from the Mobile Air Mouse website as well.

Guess what? Andrew was right. It works very well. And you get a trackpad and a keyboard (iPhone style keyboard) all for $1.99.

The Apple keyboard was roughly $80 and the Gyration Air Mouse was about the same. $160 down the drain. The $2 solution was better.

Of course, for this to work you'll need to have a $200 iTouch handy. But honestly, I could have spent $200 on the iTouch and added $2 for the Air Mouse and it would not have been much more than what I spent on the keyboard and mouse.

Bottom line for me: apps beat devices. Lesson learned. Relatively cheaply.

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