Now, this is interesting. Microsoft announced some new hardware accessories today, as it does at the start of every holiday season. But amid the expected mice and a PC version of the Xbox Wireless Controller is an unexpected new entry, the Universal Mobile Keyboard. As its name suggests, the Universal Mobile Keyboard is designed to work with iPad, iPhone, and Android handsets and tablets. Oh, and Windows tablets too.
So that's a first. And while we've been pointing out various instances of Microsoft's "mobile first, cloud first" strategy coming to life in mobile apps and cloud services, this is I think the first time we've seen it expressed in a hardware peripheral.
Here's what's going on with the Universal Mobile Keyboard:
Pair with up to three devices. The Universal Mobile Keyboard is Bluetooth-based and can pair with up to three devices.
OS switch. Since the Universal Mobile Keyboard is multi-platform, you can switch between support for iOS, Android and Windows (8, RT) with an OS switch in the upper right of the keyboard. That means there's no Windows key or other Microsoft-oriented keys. Instead, you see a Home key. (That works like the Windows key when the keyboard is in Windows mode.)
Protective cover. The keyboard comes with a protective cover for traveling, but it doubles as a tablet stand, since only Microsoft's Surface devices come with an integrated kickstand. The keyboard powers off automatically when you put the cover on. (And powers on when you take the cover off.)
Detachable cover. That keyboard cover/stand is detachable so you can position the tablet or handset wherever you wish.
Battery life. Microsoft says the Universal Mobile Keyboard will last up to 6 months on a charge. But you can get a day's worth of battery with a 10-minute quick charge.
Colors. The Universal Mobile Keyboard will be available in gray or black to match your devices.
Availability. The Universal Mobile Keyboard ships in the US and Canada in October.
In addition to the Universal Mobile Keyboard, Microsoft also announced the following other peripherals today:
Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse. This Bluetooth-based version of the popular Arc Touch Mouse dispenses with the USB nubbin, freeing up a USB port. Available in September for $69.99.
Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 Limited Edition. Available with matching tablet sleeves, these new mice come in a variety of colorful designs. They will ship in September for $29.99.
Xbox One Controller + Cable for Windows. It's the Xbox One wireless controller. With a USB cable. And Windows drivers. Available in November for $59.99.