Microsoft revamps keyboards and mice

In a massive revamp, Microsoft Corp. is expected to announce on Tuesday its overhauled line of keyboards and mice, and a new line of gaming peripherals.

After sporting the same design for 10 years, Microsoft will show off a newly revamped split keyboard that includes improved ergonomic features and other new functionality, said Brett Kelleran, group product line manager at Microsoft.

The Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 eases typing with improved angles that reduce motion, allowing users to type in a natural position, Kelleran said.

“It’s [Microsoft’s] first big enhancement in keyboards in the last 10 years,” Kelleran said. “We’ve periodically refreshed the design, but this time we worked from the ground up and overhauled it.”

Targeted at touch typists, the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 provides better finger posture to users, he said. “There are several curves and arcs to reduce how much you have to stretch your fingers [when you type],” Kelleran said.

Microsoft also has reworked the keyboard’s angles to provide more convenient wrist and arm postures, which make typing more convenient for users, Kelleran said. The gable, which stood at 8 degrees in the original design, has been increased to 14 degrees, which lifts up the keyboard to bring keys closer to users, he said. The keyboard also comes with an optional palm rest and a cushioned wrist rest, according to Microsoft.

The keyboard includes a Zoom Slider button that allows users to zoom into a cursor’s location, Kelleran said. It also features multimedia, calculator and Internet-browsing buttons. They keyboard costs US$64.95 and will become available this month, he said.

Microsoft also is expected Tuesday to unveil another new keyboard, new mice and a new series of gaming peripherals.

Though the new Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000 doesn’t have a split design, its curvy, ergonomic design make it more comfortable to use than generic keyboards, Kelleran said. Like the new Natural keyboard it also includes a Zoom Slider button. It costs $24.95 and will become available this month, he added.

The new mice — the Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 and the Wireless Optical Mouse 5000 — have more powerful sensors that result in better precision, improved responsiveness and smoother tracking, Kelleran said. Both include Zoom Slider and Magnifier buttons, allowing users to magnify an image on the screen, he said.

The Wireless Laser Mouse 6000, which uses “high definition” laser-tracking technology, will become available in October for $64.95, according to Microsoft.

The Wireless Optical Mouse 5000 is an update to and a renaming of to the current Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer product, Kelleran said. Microsoft changed the product name to better describe the features of the mouse to alleviate customer confusion about its functionality, he said.

Microsoft on Tuesday also is expected to announce a new line of peripherals targeted at gamers, called the Game Precision Series, according to Kelleran.

The line’s first product is the Laser Mouse 6000, a wired mouse with laser-tracking technology that provides scrolling precision sought by gamers, he said. Scrolling precision allows the mouse to collect a deeper resolution of data from the screen than traditional optical mice when a user moves the mouse, thus providing more detail of the images onscreen.

Laser Mouse 6000 features include Precision Booster, a button that provides precise control for gamers to lock into a target in a shooting game, and Gaming Toggle, a feature that allows gamers to quickly switch to their favorite weapons, Kelleran said. The Laser Mouse 6000 costs $54.95 and will be available in October.

Future Game Precision Series products will include the Xbox 360 Controller for Windows, a game controller that will work both with Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox 360 gaming console and Windows XP-based PCs, Kelleran said. It costs $44.95 and will become available in November, he said.

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