By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Microsoft announced a new expanded lineup of PC accessories last week in its Entertainment and Laser lines designed to optimize the company's upcoming Windows Vista operating system, which is expected in the first quarter of 2007.
The line includes bundled keyboard and mouse sets built around the company's first rechargeable mouse, the Wireless Laser Mouse 8000.
The new mouse, shipping with a horizontal charging station, incorporates several new standout features including a performance slider that allows a user to optimize performance for intense PC tasks or lower it to extend battery life. An instant viewer button allows one-click access to view all open windows and applications at once. The mouse fully recharges in less than 90 minutes.
The Wireless Laser Mouse 8000 also includes Microsoft's proprietary High Definition Laser Technology and five customizable buttons, including a magnifier and tilt wheel.
The 8000 has 2.4GHz Bluetooth technology and has a brushed aluminum casing. It ships this month with a suggested retail of $89.95.
The mouse also comes bundled with a docking station and new wireless keyboard designs in Microsoft's Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 and 7000 models. The keyboards are an inch thick and take advantage of Vista features. A Windows Start Button offers one-touch access to the Windows Start menu, with search functionality built in for searching the Internet or the PC.
The Gadget Button reveals or hides personalized information consumers use most, such as weather and sports. The Media Center Start Button allows users to instantly access media, including movies and music, and the Windows Live Call Button provides users with easy access to instant messaging or a video calls.
The desktops include 2.4GHz Bluetooth technology and the transceiver supports a variety of profiles for connections to multiple Bluetooth devices. For users with multiple wireless connections, an intelligent technology allows the desktop to “hop” when it encounters a trouble spot.
The new keyboards have a 30-foot range.
The Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 adds a backlit keyboard for use in low light or home theater settings. With ambient light sensing, the backlighting is automatically adjusted based on the amount of light in the room. It also features proximity awareness to sense when the user walks away from the keyboard, which prompts it to turn off to conserve battery life and turn back on when the user returns.
The Desktop 8000 allows users to power both the mouse and keyboard in one charging station and remains fully functional while charging. The keyboard slides under the horizontal charging station and the mouse rests on top for space-saving purposes. Microsoft designed the horizontal docking station based on internal research showing that users preferred that design to current vertical charging offerings. The docking station is equipped with three available USB 2.0 ports.
Rounding out the new desktops is the Wireless Laser Desktop 6000, which includes many of the performance elements of the Entertainment line, including the Windows Start Button and Gadget Button. It features Microsoft's Comfort Curve design with a cushioned palm rest that encourages natural hand and wrist positioning.
The Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 will have a suggested $249.95 retail price and will ship in February 2007; the 7000 will ship in January at $149.95; and the Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 at $99.95 will be available this month.
Also new from Microsoft is the Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 6000, which was engineered by the company's in-house “ergonomists” and offers what the company calls breakthrough ergonomic benefits.
It includes the following comfort features: an elevated thumb scoop shelf that maintains hand rotation to reduce pressure on the carpal tunnel; a rounded shape that more closely matches the relaxed curve of the hand to reduce finger extension; and an angled profile designed to reduce wrist turning or rotating. The vertical right side allows the side of the hand to rest on the desk while improving wrist posture, according to Microsoft.
The Natural 6000 also comes with productivity features such as the new Instant Viewer tool, Magnifier button and four-way scrolling. It will be available in January for an estimated retail price of $79.95.
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