With the first Windows 8 Surface tablets expected to go on sale Oct. 26, Microsoft is wasting no time to introduce supporting Bluetooth accessories. On Monday the company announced three new mice and two keyboards designed for Windows 8. All five products will soon be available at prices ranging from $49.95 to $79.95.
While all of these can be paired with a laptop or desktop, it appears to me that Microsoft has mobile devices — Windows 8 tablets — mostly in mind. The designs are elegant but portable, and one — the Wedge Mobile Keyboard — has a case that doubles as a tablet stand. Here’s a rundown on the new peripherals, with images from the Windows Experience blog:
Wedge Touch Mouse ($69.95). This new mouse is small enough to fit in a pocket and uses a wedge-shaped design. The mouse uses BlueTrack Technology, so it can be used on practically any surface. A special mode will power down and sleep the mouse in tandem with the computer it’s connected to, in order to save battery life.
Wedge Mobile Keyboard ($79.95). This keyboard is thin but offers a full-sized layout of keys, including some for controlling media and Windows Hot Key shortcuts. A protective cover sits atop the keyboard and when removed, acts as a “wedge” stand for a Windows tablet.
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Sculpt Touch Mouse ($49.95). This traditional-looking mouse doesn’t appear to be easily pocketable but should be a snap to carry in a laptop bag. It offers a four-way touch scroll strip, making it easy to navigate through apps, web pages or documents with one finger.
Sculpt Mobile Keyboard ($49.95). Ergonomics in a mobile keyboard? Yup. This one uses Microsoft’s Comfort Curve design to help keep your hands and wrist in a more natural typing position. Battery life is saved through a sleep mode after some inactivity along with an instant wake feature through a key tap.
Touch Mouse ($79.95). Microsoft’s new touch mouse supports several gestures and swipes. For example, a single finger swipe moves or shifts content, while two fingers are used to manage apps, switch through open apps or show app commands. Three fingers work to zoom in or out of content while a thumb gesture moves forward and back within an app; think of stepping through pages in the browser.
Will these well-designed accessories along help sell Windows 8 tablets? That’s doubtful, because Microsoft has to first deliver on Windows 8, both for x86 and ARM chips. But when I think back to two examples of accessories that can help push consumers over the edge and generate buzz on new gadgets, I need only mention Apple’s Smart Cover for iPad and Microsoft’s own Touch Cover for Windows 8 tablets.
Both of these innovate pieces of hardware complete the mobile package and make the host tablets that much more usable, cool and appealing. It’s a smart move for Microsoft to build buzz now through keyboards and mice that will help Windows 8 tablets look even better later this year.