Microsoft unveils Vista-friendly peripherals

The keyboards, mice, Webcams and headsets sport features for the upcoming Vista operating system. Photos: Microsoft's new PC add-ons

Microsoft unveiled a slew of new desktop and notebook peripherals Wednesday, many of which include Vista-specific features.

The three keyboards, three mice and three Webcam-related gadgets are designed for multimedia lovers and multitaskers. In addition to including features specific to the upcoming Vista operating system, each also works with current versions of Windows.

Microsoft computers

The Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 is a 1-inch-thick keyboard that uses 2.4GHz Bluetooth technology to connect wirelessly with any PC up to 30 feet away. The keyboard is rechargeable with a horizontal docking station.

Designed to be used with Windows Media Center, the keyboard has a button that takes you directly to music and movies you have stored on your PC--and has a backlighting feature for when it's dark in the room. Its proximity sensor can detect when a user has moved away from the keyboard and will trigger hibernation mode to save battery life.

Vista-specific buttons initiate video calls and access the personalized "Gadgets" section--which are tiny applications similar to Apple Computer's Mac OS X "Widgets." Other buttons will launch instant messaging applications and the Start menu.

The Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 will cost $249.95, including a wireless mouse.

The Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000, also a keyboard, has the same Vista buttons as the 8000 model, but lacks the backlighting and isn't rechargeable, taking four AA batteries instead. The 7000 model will cost $149, including a wireless mouse.

Both will be available February 2007 and come Wireless Laser Mouse 8000, which Microsoft said can be recharged in less than 90 minutes. The mouse also has a one-click feature that lets users see all open applications and windows on the desktop at once.

Microsoft also announced it is releasing an updated version of Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 to include Vista functionality. And last month Logitech announced its own wireless keyboard and mouse combination with Vista-specific features.

Microsoft on Tuesday also unveiled a Bluetooth wireless mouse that also functions as a slideshow presentation navigator, a laser pointer and remote control. The Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 works up to 30 feet away and has a battery indicator light. The play, pause, forward, back and volume are flat buttons located on the bottom of the mouse and are capable of controlling RealPlayer, iTunes and Windows Media Player. It will be available in mid-October.

Microsoft also said it will debut a new ergonomic mouse in January 2007. The company said the Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 will reduce pressure on the carpal tunnel and help prevent repeated wrist turning and rotating.

Besides catering to multimedia junkies and overworked wrists, Microsoft is also hoping to tap into the voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) trend. The new LifeCam line includes a Webcam for notebooks, a wireless headset and a wired headset for PC-to-PC calls.

Microsoft said it expects more than 30 million American households to use VoIP for calls by 2009. The company will debut the NX-6000 Webcam, which is also a 2-megapixel camera, in November. The Webcam features buttons that will instantly launch a video chat or post photos directly to a user's Microsoft Live Spaces account.

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