Microsoft is showing off new hardware accessories for tablets and PCs that are specifically designed to function in tandem with the tech giant's next-generation Windows 8 operating system when it launches Oct. 26.
Monday's preview of mobile -friendly keyboards and mice underscores Microsoft's statement to the SEC last Thursday that it fully intends to continue investing in new hardware technologies to be marketed under the Microsoft brand beyond the highly anticipated Surface tablet coming down the chute this autumn.
"We are showcasing our first set of hardware products designed and optimized for Windows 8," said Brett Kelleran, general manager of Microsoft Hardware. "It's the reason why our group was formed and, in these products, that's shining through."
For example, Microsoft's coming Wedge Mobile keyboard is specifically designed for use with tablets.
"It seamlessly connected to my tablet via Bluetooth with no trouble at all," noted Microsoft Windows Team blogger Brandon LeBlanc. "Within seconds I had a physical keyboard to use to write this post with."
Doubling as a Tablet Stand
Microsoft's sleek Wedge Mobile Keyboard will sport a durable rubber cover that clamps on to the sides of the keyboard -- an action that automatically powers down the tablet accessory. Microsoft said the new device will be coming to market soon at an estimated price of $79.95.
The Wedge Mobile Keyboard retains a full-sized keyboard layout yet is lightweight enough to easily carry around, LeBlanc said. The rubber cover bends at the middle, which enables it to double as a tablet stand.
"I have a dock for my Samsung Series 7 tablet but I don't carry it when popping from one meeting to the next here at work," LeBlanc said. "This is perfect because I only need to take the keyboard with cover and my tablet to my meetings which can quickly be set up as a stand."
The keyboard integrates search, share, device and settings hot keys that are Windows 8-specific.
"I especially enjoy quick access to the Share, as I love sharing stuff," LeBlanc wrote. "The Wedge Mobile Keyboard also has media keys for volume and playback control."
Surfing on All Surfaces
Microsoft also took the wraps off a new Bluetooth-enabled Wedge Touch mouse that is tiny enough to stow in a pocket or purse. Designed for use with either tablets or conventional PCs, the accessory will be priced at $69.99.
Microsoft's built-in BlueTrack technology, which generates a high-contrast image of the surface below the mouse, enables the new Wedge Touch device to function accurately irrespective of the material over which the mouse is moving. Featuring four-way touch scrolling, the mouse also is designed to automatically power down and enter a sleep mode in tandem with the main computing device to which it is paired.
Additionally, Microsoft is poised to roll out a pair of Sculpt Mobile hardware offerings at $49.95 each that have been optimized for use with Windows 8 computing machines. Among other things, the ultra-thin Bluetooth-enabled keyboard has been ergonomically designed to conform to a normal wrist posture through the incorporation of a six-degree curve.
The keyboard also has hot keys for easy access to Windows 8's search and share functions as well as device settings. And the Sculpt Mobile mouse integrates a four-way touch scroll strip for enabling users to navigate up, down, left and right, as well as swipe through their open windows and documents.