All the hullabaloo about Microsoft getting into the hardware business when it announced its Surface tablets must have been puzzling to the folks at the company's hardware division, which has been making keyboards, mice and such for 30 years.
That tradition continued Monday with the unit introducing some new wireless mice and keyboards designed for mobile users, as well as updating its Touch Mouse to better support Windows 8, expected to be released at the end of October.
The "Wedge" mouse ($69.95) and keyboard ($79.95) connect to a notebook or tablet through Bluetooth 4.0 so you don't have to worry about cables or USB transceiver.
The Wedge Touch Mouse can fit in your pocket and supports four-way touch scrolling and navigation, which minimizes the rodent's real estate requirements. BlueTrack Technology is also supported by the device so you can obtain top performance from the mouse regardless of the surface it's operating on. Another nice feature is its Backpack Mode. That conserves the unit's battery life by powering it down when the computer it's paired to powers down or enters sleep mode.
The Wedge Mobile Keyboard has a very slim profile and has a Windows orientation, supporting the operating system's hot keys and media controls. To protect the keyboard from the elements, it includes a durable cover which, in a clever turn by Microsoft, can, when not in use, double as a stand for a tablet.
If you can live without extreme slimness, you can save a few bucks with Microsoft's two other new offerings: the Sculpt Touch Mouse and Sculpt Touch Keyboard, both Bluetooth devices selling $49.95 each.
The Sculpt mouse is optimized for Windows 8 navigation. For example, it has a four-way touch scroll strip that lets you move smoothly around documents and applications with simple finger swipes.
The Sculpt keyboard is full-sized, weighs a little over a pound and has a distinctive curved shape that's designed for better ergonomic placement of the hands on the keyboard. The offering also has a sleep mode that saves power when it detects a period of inactivity in the device it's paired with.
In addition to the new mice and keyboards, Microsoft is also updating its Touch Mouse ($79.95) to support Windows 8 gesture settings, such as swiping, two-finger management of app functions, three-finger zooming and thumb gestures for moving backward and forward within apps.
"[I]f you already own a Touch Mouse you dont need to buy a new one for Windows 8!" Brandon LeBlanc wrote in The Windows Blog. " All existing Touch Mouse customers will be able to take advantage of these new gestures for Windows 8 when Windows 8 is released this fall."