How to fix the keyboard crisis

Mobile gadgets are supposed to get better and better. So why have their keyboards gotten worse?

Still, there's hope

Though most netbook keyboards are horrible, at least two companies are trying. The first netbook with a great keyboard was the Sony Vaio P. Like all newer Sony Vaio laptops, the P sports those flat, MacBook-style keys that people either love or hate. The Vaio achieves its magic by being much wider but much shallower than regular netbooks. The P is great.

But almost nobody has one because they cost a small fortune. The product is listed as starting at $849, but that price will buy you an inadequate experience. A more reasonably configured system runs closer to $2,000, which is a bit much for the netbook market, where prices are now one-tenth that price.

This week, Fujitsu announced a great-looking Windows 7 netbook called the LifeBook UH900. The form factor is very similar to the Vaio P's, with a wide keyboard and smallish screen. It weighs about a pound. The UH900 has unexpected features like multi-touch, and also all the things you've come to expect, such as a built-in camera.

The big question is, however: How much will it cost? If Fujitsu can get the price of this thing below $600, it might have a winner on its hands, although rumors suggest it will cost much more than that.

My view is that these companies have the right idea. If you have to sacrifice either screen height or keyboard width to miniaturize a clamshell PC, I say sacrifice the screen. Most of us use these device to take notes, catch up on e-mail, and do a little blogging or writing. We're not editing video or watching Blu-ray movies. What we need is fast and comfortable typing. When we want a dazzling screen, we can use our full-size laptops or desktops.

The gadget industry has somehow convinced us that typing doesn't matter. It's time to fight back with our wallets. It's time we stop buying mobile gadgets with junk keyboards. Don't be dazzled by shiny displays and forget how important a good keyboard is. The industry can do better. They've done it before. And if the money flows toward better keyboards, we'll start seeing innovation again.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. Contact Mike at mike.elgan@elgan.com, follow him on Twitter or his blog, The Raw Feed.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags ebookkeyboards

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Mike Elgan

Mike Elgan

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?