Microsoft to hatch designer mice

Expanding its lineup of nontraditional mice, Microsoft is expected to unveil next week two designer mice created by prolific design artist Philippe Starck.

Starck has designed two streamlined, corded mice for Microsoft, one with an orange strip and one with a blue strip through the middle of a metallic body, according to photos of the mice on the Web site of an Italian Microsoft distributor. On the strip is a wheel for scrolling and the traditional two mouse buttons appear to have been hidden in the design.

The mice use optical technology and can be connected to either a Windows PC or a Macintosh using a USB (Universal Serial Bus) cable, according to descriptions of the product on the Web sites of various retailers. Amazon.com Inc. already has the mice, called the Microsoft Optical Mouse by Starck, available for pre-order for US$29.95 (AU$42.80).

Microsoft has sent out teasers to the media advertising its partnership with Starck and that the "collaboration designed to inspire" will deliver "something truly unexpected." The announcement is set for July 8. A company spokeswoman declined to comment before then.

Starck's experience with electronics includes watches for Fossil and a baby monitor and scales for U.S. retailer Target. However, the French designer caters to many markets. His other designs include furniture, food packaging, luggage, vehicles, clothing and hotel interiors.

Microsoft has been busy expanding its lineup of nontraditional mice. In September last year the Redmond, Washington, vendor introduced several new styles, including a black leather mouse. In April Microsoft introduced a trio of special-edition colorful mice and invited suggestions for future special designs.

The market is very good for mice, said Stephen Baker, an analyst at NPD Techworld. "Mice are a very important product for consumers. While we try to dismiss them, they are a pretty big category that generates a lot of dollars," he said.

Microsoft and rival Logitech offer premium products as opposed to the slew of lower-priced, standard beige mice sold by many others. "They have continually innovated in this space," Baker said.

An online version of Microsoft's product teaser is at:http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/performanceart

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