Multimillion-dollar mouse deal

GOLDEN TOUCH: Grant Odgers' (shown with an old mouse) company Swiftpoint has signed a deal with a US computer add-on giant for its new mouse that can interpret 'touch gestures'.
GOLDEN TOUCH: Grant Odgers' (shown with an old mouse) company Swiftpoint has signed a deal with a US computer add-on giant for its new mouse that can interpret 'touch gestures'.

A United States computer add-on giant is to release a new breed of computer mouse that uses technology developed by a Kiwi company.

Swiftpoint, a Christchurch company founded by former computer games store owner Grant Odgers, has signed a three-year multimillion-dollar deal with Belkin International.

Swiftpoint adviser Ross Allan said the deal would be worth at least "tens of millions of dollars".

Belkin global vice-president Ben Thacker said Swiftpoint's "GesturePoint" technology would be a "key component of a new type of accessory for personal and desktop devices to be launched later this year".

Details and photos of the device are still under wraps, but the mouse is designed to double as a pointing device that can also interpret "touch gestures".

Mr Odgers said it would make it easier for people to interact with computers that used touch-based operating systems, such as Microsoft's Windows 8.

"Microsoft Office has touch and gesture features built-in, but the reality is that doing Excel spreadsheets and Word documents with a touch screen does not work well. So we still use a keyboard and mouse and miss out on the great touch features that are now built into Word, Excel and Windows 8," he said.

Mr Odgers first made headlines in 2008 with his ambitious plans to manufacture his own range of pen-like computer mice.

He released the first range of Swiftpoint devices in 2010 and had sold "tens of thousands" by last year.

But his deal with Belkin, a privately owned Californian company which employs 1200 staff, signals a new approach.

Swiftpoint will no longer try to contract manufacture its own devices, focusing instead on licensing its technology, he said.

"Our Swiftpoint mouse won global awards but has taught us that commercialising intellectual property is a long, hard road," Mr Odgers said.

"The Belkin licensing deal signals a new paradigm for us, where we get maximum overall returns from our intellectual property."

Swiftpoint's distribution deal was announced on the same day the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment published a report forecasting New Zealand appeared on track to become a net exporter of computer services within a few years.

It said the number of people employed in the ICT industry as a whole had increased by 11,000 since 2003, to total 61,000, and wages in the industry were double national average.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said the Government had assisted with projects such as the ultrafast broadband initiative and the creation of science agency Callaghan Innovation.

However, Green Party MP Gareth Hughes said a claim by Joyce that the Government had helped tackle the skills shortage in the sector by increasing the number of science and engineering places at tertiary institutions was misleading.

"This investment was for courses like mining and geology, not courses like software engineering, information technology and computer science," Hughes said.

The Dominion Post