When Microsoft showed off their Surface tablet a few months back, it wasn’t the OS, the battery life, or the touch screen that stole the show. It was a clever case that doubled as a keyboard. In retrospect, of course that case was a big deal; typing is the one important thing that you really can’t do well on a contemporary tablet. Microsoft recognized the platform’s chief design flaw and fixed it.
But this week, Microsoft revealed another keyboard (and mouse) solution for the Surface and other Windows 8 tablets. They’re called the “Wedge” Mobile Keyboard and Touch Mouse, and it’s an apt name, as the wedge is at the core of their design paradigm.
The keyboard is much like any compact Bluetooth keyboard you’ve seen. But where it differs is its folding case, which pivots to support the tablet like a monitor when the keyboard is in use. This simple piece of fabric ostensibly turns a Windows tablet into a PC.
The mouse is just as interesting. Also playing on the “wedge” idea, it combines a trackpad and a traditional mouse by placing a whole touch surface right on top of a standard mouse. It might be overkill–after all, one style of pointer control can usually do–but it’s an interesting bridge technology to support multitouch gestures for those who insist on using a standard mouse (or those who really need one for using Photoshop or Illustrator in their desktop-style incarnations). What you may not notice from the picture, however, is just how tiny this mouse is. It’s the smallest, lightest mouse Microsoft has ever made, and it will fit in your pocket.
More and more, Microsoft’s unique approach to tablets is playing out. While the iPad is the perfect couch computer, Microsoft is trying to make the Surface into the perfect mobile computer. Of course, that isn’t stopping Microsoft from selling multiple, confusing SKUs of their tablet software. And, however unrealistic it may be, we can always dream of a workhorse tablet that can get by without the keyboard, can’t we?
The Wedge keyboard and mouse will be available “in the coming weeks and months” for $80 and $70, respectively.