Microsoft today announced a new family of mice and keyboards that are designed specifically for Windows 8. Additionally, the software giant announced that it will update its existing Touch Mouse with new gesture settings for Windows 8, as expected.
I’ll be reviewing all of these products in the weeks and months ahead. For now, let’s look at what Microsoft announced and discuss how these products appear to provide a deeper integration with built-in Windows 8 capabilities than do most existing mice and keyboards.
Remember, too, that Microsoft has dramatically expanded the capabilities that PC makers can provide via the built-in trackpads in their PCs and devices. I wrote about these capabilities previously in Windows 8 Release Preview: New Trackpad Gesture Support. (In fact, I’m using that very PC to write this preview.)
Microsoft provides two official sources of information about these new devices: A press release (increasingly rare these days; I’m unclear why they even bothered) and a more typical post to its Windows Experience Blog. (Curiously, the Microsoft Hardware Blog is silent, so far.)
For high-resolution images of these products, please check out Windows 8 Photo Gallery: New Mice and Keyboards.
Either way, the following devices have been announced. Availability for all is listed as “soon.”
Wedge Mobile Keyboard
Designed specifically for Windows 8-based tablets, this new, ultraslim but full-sized keyboard includes access to some of the most commonly used Windows 8 features, such as Windows Hot Keys (for the charms; Search, Share, Device and Settings) and built-in media keys, in hardware. It comes with a durable cover, Microsoft says, that can be snapped back when not in use. It’s based on Bluetooth technology and will cost $79.95 in the US.
Wedge Touch Mouse
The mouse-based companion to the Wedge Mobile Keyboard appears to continue Microsoft’s alarming recent trend of ignoring ergonomics in its mice products, but I’ll need to get my hands on one, literally, before being sure of that. For now, Microsoft says that this curious wedge-shaped device provides “four-way touch scrolling” features (perfect for Metro apps), uses BlueTrack technology for accuracy, and includes a power-saving BackPack mode to automatically sleep the device when the paired PC goes to sleep. It’s also based on Bluetooth (but doesn’t require a transceiver, which is nice), and will cost $69.95.
Sculpt Mobile Keyboard
A small keyboard aimed at desktop and mobile users (it’s basically a new version of the Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 5000, which is terrible), this new design weighs a bit more than one pound, features a semi-ergonomic design that forces the hands at a slightly-more-correct angle, has full-sized keys, includes the Windows 8 Hot Keys, of course, and also uses battery-saving technologies, though unlike the Wedge Touch Mouse, these are tied to (in)activity, not the connected PC. The Sculpt Mobile Keyboard retails for $49.95.
Sculpt Touch Mouse
Providing a more comfortable experience than the Wedge Touch Mouse, this new mouse has a four-way touch scroll strip, which again is ideal for Metro apps (and the Start screen) in Windows 8. (It somewhat resembles today’s terrible Explorer Touch Mouse.) It too is based on Bluetooth and will cost $49.95.
Getting updated: Touch Mouse
Microsoft also revealed that its existing Touch Mouse, which I pretty much panned in my review last year—will be updated via software with new Windows 8-specific capabilities. These include the ability to use one-finger swipes to shift the screen or content on screen in any of four directions, two-finger movements to manage apps, switch through open apps and show app commands, three finger accessible zoom in and out, and thumb gestures for navigating backward and forward within apps. This update will of course be free, but if you want to buy the mouse, it’s available now and the cost is $79.95.
(All of the photos here were stolen liberally from the Windows Experience Blog. Again, for nicer, high-resolution images of these products, please check out Windows 8 Photo Gallery: New Mice and Keyboards.)