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A Microsoft keyboard for the upper crust

Discussion in 'Information Technology' started by imported_NewsBot, Sep 16, 2006.

  1. imported_NewsBot

    imported_NewsBot New Member

    Sep 10, 2006
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    Can a keyboard and mouse induce sticker shock? Microsoft Corp. may soon find out.

    The company's latest PC peripherals, unveiled Wednesday, include a high-end keyboard-and-mouse set that Microsoft's hardware group calls the pinnacle of its more than two decades of work in the category.

    And at nearly $250, the retail price of the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 will be a peak in its own right. That's as much as Apple charges for its 30-gigabyte video iPod.

    It will be the most Microsoft has ever charged for one of its keyboard-and-mouse combinations, said Matt Barlow, director of worldwide marketing and business development for the company's hardware group.

    "It sets a new bar," Barlow said, likening the product to a high-end watch or a luxury car.

    Features of the thin, rechargeable keyboard include Bluetooth wireless for controlling a PC from across the room, and a built-in touchpad for moving the on-screen cursor without a mouse. It has backlit keys that turn on automatically by sensing a user's presence and the level of the light in the room.

    It also comes with buttons that tie into Windows Vista, the upcoming version of the company's PC operating system. One launches the Windows Media Center PC interface and another activates Windows Vista's "gadgets" -- small, specialized programs on the Vista screen.

    "We call it a keyboard. ... I see it as more of a command center," said Sean Butterworth, Microsoft's keyboard product marketing manager, during a presentation on the company's Redmond campus Wednesday.

    Butterworth compared the brushed aluminum casing across the top of the keyboard to the quality of trim that might be found in a BMW or a Mercedes.

    But what type of person would pay $250 for a keyboard and mouse? Industry analysts say the product is likely to appeal primarily to a relatively small niche of high-end technology and digital-media enthusiasts.

    "It appears that this is one of those early adopter type of keyboards that's aimed at the upper end -- or the upper crust, I guess," said analyst Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Inc.

    Industry analyst Crawford Del Prete, senior vice president with the IDC research firm, called it "a pretty specialized, premium, high-end" keyboard, with features that won't be available at mainstream prices for another product generation or two.

    Del Prete pointed out that the price isn't unprecedented in the industry. Logitech launched its diNovo Media Desktop at the same price in November 2003.

    Such products don't sell in huge volumes, like mainstream mice and keyboards, but they do appeal to the top end of the market, said Nancy Morrison, a Logitech spokeswoman. Some people are more than willing to pay extra to have particularly "beautifully engineered, elegant" keyboards and mice on their desks, she said.

    Microsoft will also offer a lower-priced version of its product. Dubbed the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000, it will sell for about $150. It includes the Windows Vista-related buttons but comes without features such as the backlit keys and the ability to recharge the keyboard.

    The Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 is scheduled to go on sale in February, about a month after the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000.

    The company also offers other wireless keyboard and mouse combinations for less than $100.

    Along with the new keyboards and mice, Microsoft's hardware group introduced a number of other devices and products. Among them:

    # An ergonomic Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 6000, with a shape and grooves designed to feel like the user is gripping a ball. It will cost $79.95 and be available in January.

    # A four-in-one device, the Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000, that serves as a mouse, a PowerPoint controller, a media remote-control and laser pointer. It will cost $99.95 and be available this month.

    # A portable Webcam, the LifeCam NX-6000 -- about the size of a lipstick case, with a retractable lens that comes out the end. It's expected to cost $99.95 and be available this month.


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