Microsoft's hardware division is developing a slim wireless keyboard that will make it easier for users to access Windows Live services and features in its Windows Vista OS.
Dubbed the Ultimate Keyboard, it will be announced later this year as part of a desktop package, said a source familiar with Microsoft's plans. The system will come with a wireless laser mouse, the source said.
A Windows Live Call button will provide one-touch access to a list of Windows Live Messenger buddies online to initiate a videoconference or chat session. Pressing the button will automatically log a user into Windows Live Messenger and open a list of contacts currently online.
A Gadgets button will provide similar access to Gadgets in Windows Vista, mini-applications that appear on the computer screen to display things such as news, sports and weather information.
The ergonomic keyboard includes a round button at the bottom -- below the space bar -- that initiates the Start menu of Vista or Windows XP, the source said. It supersedes the Start menu buttons traditionally found next to Alt buttons on a keyboard.
Ultimate Keyboard's keys will be backlit, and their illumination will be adjusted based on surrounding light and proximity of users, the source said. The keys will light up if the room is dark or if a user is close by.
A dock will be included with the desktop package to charge the keyboard and mouse simultaneously from a computer's USB (Universal Serial Bus) port. The keyboard and mouse will come with built-in batteries. The cordless keyboard and mouse will communicate wirelessly with a computer within a 30-foot range using Bluetooth technology.
Microsoft is developing a stable of hardware products to promote the use of Windows Live services. Last month it launched two videoconferencing webcams, LifeCam VX-6000 and LifeCam VX-3000, to ease videoconferencing with Windows Live Messenger and create photo blog entries on Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces community site.
An online teaser for the keyboard can be found online here: http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/ultimatekeyboard/default.mspx.