The buildup to the release of Windows 8 has been every bit as extensive, and every bit as anticipated, as the release of a new line of Apple (News - Alert) hardware. But Microsoft isn't just unveiling a new operating system with the launch of Windows 8; they'll also be bringing out a variety of new accessories specifically designed with the new operating system in mind.
One of the biggest new accessories is the Wedge Mobile Keyboard. Designed clearly with mobility in mind, the keyboard is incredibly small, thin and light, as well as a stand on the underside of the keyboard itself, making it more comfortable for users. Word processing on tablets has always been something of an issue--though cases with keyboards built in didn't take long to roll out--but this looks to improve on that problem by providing a small keyboard that's easy to use. It also boasts a one-key return to the home screen, a set of hotkeys, and even a cover to keep it protected, which is important with any hardware specifically geared to be mobile. The Wedge Mobile Keyboard is expected to sell for $80.
Not surprisingly, Microsoft (News - Alert) also unveiled the Wedge Touch Mouse to go with its Wedge Mobile Keyboard. The mouse is extremely small, which gives it a lot of advantages in terms of overall portability, and doesn't even require a USB port to work as it works wirelessly, but by Bluetooth connection. The Wedge Touch Mouse is expected to retail for slightly less than the keyboard at $70.
Microsoft also showed off another keyboard / mouse combo in the form of the Sculpt Touch Mouse and Sculpt Touch Keyboard. The mouse is set to offer a touch strip instead of a scroll wheel, as well as the standard two button approach along with some other navigation features, and sell for $50. The keyboard, meanwhile, offers a Bluetooth connection, the same hot keys on the Wedge Mobile Keyboard, and the "Comfort Curve" design that provides a little extra wrist friendliness when typing. It's expected to be out soon for $49.95.
Finally, there was also word about a revamp of the Microsoft Touch Mouse. The Touch Mouse has some Windows 8 updating as well as the unexpected move of nary a single button to be seen, instead relying on gesture controls and finger swipes to accomplish its various functions.
Microsoft is doing something rather interesting with this; it's almost presenting a post-PC era in its own right that looks a lot like the PC era. The basic elements of PC interfaces are there--mice and keyboards--but somewhat more refined, and significantly more portable. Some might say that the laptop already did a more than sufficient job of making the PC experience portable, but this certainly steps things up a notch. The prices are a bit disturbing, especially considering the ready supplies of replacement goods out there (some reports suggest that suggested retail isn't much more than a suggestion at that), but for those who want maximum portability in a PC-style experience, Microsoft's line of Windows 8 accessories should be a welcome lineup indeed.
Of course, only time will tell if enough users want that kind of experience to make Microsoft's venture worthwhile, but Microsoft is certainly trying to push the envelope and take advantage of novelty value. Any time value can be added, especially in a bad economy, it's worth looking into further.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman