For years, detractors of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Macintosh computer have had one reliable complaint to fall back on: its one-button mouse. As computer interfaces grew increasingly complex, Windows PCs introduced two- and three-button mice, but Apple stuck with the same simple design it first unveiled in 1984. That all changed last Tuesday, when Apple introduced an ingenious mouse that can be all things for all people -- and, perhaps, another foothold in its stealth attack on the PC market.

Puckishly named Mighty Mouse, the new gadget shares the sleek, seamless surface of Apple's standard mouse, whose entire top half serves as its "button." But Mighty Mouse can detect whether users are clicking on the right or left half of the mouse -- or squeezing its sides -- and respond accordingly. Cleverly, because Mighty Mouse is programmable, it can still serve as a good ol' one-button device for the very young, the very old, or those especially frightened of change.

Apple being Apple, the new mouse isn't content to simply follow the pack. Where most Windows mice have a scroll wheel for easy up-and-down scans through Web pages and word-processing documents, Mighty Mouse packs a scroll button. By moving a finger over the tiny nub atop the mouse, users can quickly scroll through images, editing timelines or other documents in every direction: up, down, left, right, and anywhere in between.

Naturally, this style doesn't come cheap. The Mighty Mouse costs $49 -- a good $15 to $35 more than an off-the-shelf PC equivalent. At present, Mighty Mouse must be bought separately; even new Macs still ship with Apple's old and suddenly passe one-button wonder. (Shareholders worried that the Mac maker's margins might suffer can breathe a sigh of relief.)

In my opinion, the most intriguing aspect of Mighty Mouse lies almost hidden in the fine print on Apple's website: The device isn't limited to Macs alone. It's been built to work seamlessly with Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows as well. For years now, Apple's sleek monitors and trendy iPod have worked with Windows, and the Mac mini it introduced in January is designed to plug into PC-standard screens and keyboards. Analysts have even begun to note a "halo effect" from the iPod's popularity, as a small but growing number of PC users switch to the Mac mini and other Apple computers.

Mighty Mouse may be the next step in Apple's quiet crusade to lure Windows users into the grasp of CEO Steve Jobs' famous Reality Distortion Field, one stylish little component at a time. Microsoft is often dubbed "The Borg," a technological monolith that co-opts everything it touches -- but this time, it seems, Apple's the one doing the assimilating.

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Fool editor Nathan Alderman owns an iBook and an iMac, but at the time of publication, he held no financial position in any companies mentioned.