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IBM steers around Microsoft too

IBM introduces two new keyboards that offer direct access to the Internet, an emerging trend in the PC peripherals.

IBM today introduced two new keyboards that offer direct access to the Internet, an emerging trend in the PC peripherals.

The new products, the Rapid Access and TrackPoint Keyboards, feature programmable buttons for one-touch access to the Internet as well as specific applications. With its new offering, IBM joins Compaq and Gateway, who both introduced keyboards with similar features earlier this year.

Analysts think "one-touch" Internet access keyboards could be significant because they seem to steer around Microsoft's ability to dictate configuration of the PC's default Web browser. Though the software giant now incorporates its own Internet Explorer into the operating system, vendors can pre-program both software configurations and dial-up connections on the keyboard, thus giving them the opportunity to strike deals with Internet service providers while bypassing the desktop.

It's worth noting, however, that IBM's Net access keyboard doesn't come standard with consumer PCs.

The federal government contends Microsoft is illegally leveraging its predominant operating system into overwhelming browser share, and has filed an antitrust suit.

IBM's Rapid Access Keyboard, priced at $49.95, includes four customizable keys, five CD control keys, and a dedicated Help key for access to Windows Help screens.

The TrackPoint Keyboard allows users to scroll through documents or Web pages through the keyboard using the TrackPoint IV pointing device. The TrackPoint Keyboard is priced at $109 and will be available by late July.