FIRST THERE WAS the decline of the desktop computer, with big tower cases and even small desktop PCs going the way of the dodo to be replaced by laptops. Laptops were getting smaller and smaller but the iPhone and iPad really changed the way we interface with computers. It looks like the iPad and the various tablets it spawned are going to further alter the desktop environment, and eventually they’ll become the one and only computer for many people. According to Microsoft, global tablet sales will reach 375 million by 2016, putting 760 million tablets in the hands of consumers worldwide.
Think about it – if a laptop or even an ultraportable can do double duty at home and at work, wirelessly hooking up to the network, printers and peripherals, then what’s stopping a tablet doing exactly the same thing? It’s not processing power because most of us (gamers, photographers and designers notwithstanding) only use a fraction of the grunt available in our computers – you don’t need all that much power to browse the web, type up an email or watch a video or two. In any event, tablets will rapidly grow in power and capability. The major hassle is the human interface: if you have to actually work on the things, then the touchscreens aren’t ideal, but what if you could have a mouse and keyboard combo that’s as portable as the tablets?
Microsoft showed off its take on this concept at a launch event in Auckland recently, which tied into the Hardware division’s 30th birthday celebrations (that’s right, it’s been three decades since the first Microsoft mouse).
The Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard and Wedge Touch Mouse are super-portable devices expressly designed to work with tablets, including Apple’s tablets. They use Bluetooth to connect, are equipped with battery-saving technology and are intended to elevate a tablet to the full desktop experience. For example, the keyboard’s cover doubles as a tablet stand, and when it’s not in use, clipping it to the keyboard powers down the device. It offers a very decent keyboard feel, while the mouse, for all its compactness, benefits from Microsoft’s design experience, so it’s comfortable and tracks well.
Both units will be available in the near future at $99 for the mouse and $129 for the keyboard.
The next logical step is a way to wirelessly dock tablets to compatible monitors, so that we can work and play on big full HD screens (assuming the next-gen tablets have the graphics and processing grunt, which they will if the market exists). ASHLEY KRAMER