Microsoft Announces Vista Peripherals

Microsoft elaborated on its fall and winter hardware lineup on Thursday, announcing three new wireless keyboard and mouse packages, along with three new wireless mice. The first products would begin shipping this month, with launch dates throughout the winter through February 2007.

"We are pushing the envelope on hardware design to meet the new ways consumers are using their PCs at home and in the office," Microsoft hardware designer Dan O'Neil said. "Keyboards and mice are no longer just about typing and clicking - they are an extension of the individual's personality."

The idea, says O'Neil, was to create computer peripherals using design and visual cues from Microsoft's next generation operating system, Windows Vista.

The first of the hardware to launch will be the Wireless Laser Desktop 6000, set to ship in September at a retail price of $99.95 USD. This would be followed by two more advanced Desktops, the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000 in January 2007 retailing for $149.95 USD, and the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000, debuting next February for $249.95 USD.

While the 6000 is a standard wireless keyboard/mouse combo, the two higher-end units will provide more advanced features. Both will be less than one inch thick, and include specific features useful to both Windows XP and Windows Vista users.

A Windows Start button allows for quick access to the Start menu, while the Gadget button would work with Vista's new sidebar feature. A Media Center button enables access to Windows Media Center functionality, and Windows Live OneCall button would allow for one touch dialing of video calls from Live Messenger.

The higher-end desktops also include 2.4GHz Bluetooth with special frequency-hopping technology to limit interference from other devices using that band, including cordless phones and wireless networks. They also support a range of up to thirty feet from the receiver, Microsoft said.

The Desktop 8000 additionally includes intelligent backlighting, which detects ambient light. The keyboard and mouse require no batteries and are recharged through a special docking station. Also included is 4 USB ports, and the Wireless Laser Mouse 8000, which can be purchased separately for $89.95 USD beginning in October of this year.

The features advanced functionality such as a performance slider to extend battery life, instant viewer button to view all windows at once, quick charge, and better latency than traditional wireless mice.

Microsoft's next mouse off the manufacturing line would actually be four devices in one, designed for the so-called "road-warrior." The Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000, available in mid-October for $99.95, combines a slide presenter, laser pointer with digital ink, and a media remote control with a Bluetooth laser notebook mouse.

The remote function works just like today's standard Media Center remotes, and Microsoft said the remote was compatible with RealPlayer and iTunes, as well as Windows Media Player.

The bottom side of the mouse is where all of the necessary presentation buttons are hidden, including forward, back and full screen, and where the laser pointer also resides. The digital ink would also let the user "telestrate" on presentations for added emphasis.

Finally, responding to calls for an ergonomic mouse, the Redmond company will release the Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 in January 2007 at a retail price of $79.95 USD. It features an elevated thumb scoop, a more rounded shape and angled profile. The ergonomic mouse would also include the Instant Viewer tool, Magnifier button and four-way scrolling.

Keyboards and mice aren't the only new products on the docket, however, as Microsoft unveiled Thursday a webcam designed for laptop use. The LifeCam NX-6000 offers the highest-resolution video at 2.0-megapixels than any competitor, Microsoft says, with a lens that retracts inside the camera when not in use. The NX-6000 will be available in November for $99.95 USD.

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