Microsoft refreshed its line of keyboards and mice on Wednesday, introducing a desktop system that includes a keyboard designed for use with Windows Vista and the company's Windows Live online services.
The Ultimate Keyboard comes in the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 package, which also includes a wireless laser mouse, according to the company.
A Windows Live Call button on the keyboard provides one-touch access to a list of Windows Live Messenger buddies online to initiate a videoconference or chat session. It automatically logs a user in to Windows Live Messenger and opens a list of contacts that are currently online.
The keyboard's Start menu button for Vista or Windows XP is placed below the space bar, replacing the Start menu buttons traditionally found next to Alt buttons on traditional keyboards. A Gadget button on the ergonomic keyboard provides access to Gadgets in Windows Vista, which are windows on the PC desktop that display news, sports, weather and other information.
The Ultimate Keyboard's keys are backlit, with the illumination adjusted based on surrounding light and user proximity. A Universal Serial Bus-powered dock included in the desktop package charges the built-in batteries of the keyboard and mouse simultaneously. The keyboard can be used during charging, and it includes an integrated pointing device. The keyboard and mouse use Bluetooth technology to communicate wirelessly with a computer at up to a 30-foot (360-inch) range.
The US$249.95 desktop package will become available in February 2007 in the U.S.
The Windows Live Call button will also be found on Microsoft's new LifeCam NX-6000, a US$99.95 webcam designed for laptops that shoots 2-megapixel images at a 640-by-480-pixel resolution. The LifeCam also has a built-in noise-cancelling microphone. It will become available in November.
The LifeCam NX-6000 simplifies the creation of photo blog entries on Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces community site, the company said. An optional software service called "One-Touch Blogging" publishes pictures free to the user's blog on Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces. After the LifeCam NX-6000 snaps a picture, the software automatically logs the user in to Windows Live Spaces. Users can add text to the photo blog entry before publishing it with a single click, said Liz DeBord, a Microsoft spokeswoman.
Microsoft also launched two headsets, the wireless LifeChat ZX-6000 (US$69.95) and the wired LifeChat LX-3000 (US$39.95). The LifeChat ZX-6000 communicates with a PC using RF technology. Both headsets, which include microphones, work with the LifeCams and are designed to meet the growing demand for videoconferencing products, the company said. Both headsets will become available in the U.S. in January 2007.