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Microsoft breeds sideways-scrolling mouse

The software giant unveils a bunch of wireless keyboards and mice that mark the debut of a sideways-scrolling feature and the company's first leather-clad mouse.

Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled a bevy of wireless keyboards and mice that mark the debut of a sideways-scrolling feature and the company's first leather-clad mouse.

Three of the new mice have what Microsoft dubs "Tilt Wheel Technology," which allows people to move a cursor horizontally through Web sites, spreadsheets and other documents. The company has essentially taken a traditional scroll wheel and enabled it to be tilted to the left or right in order to send the cursor sideways.

One of these mice, the "Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer," comes in black leather, part of a Microsoft marketing move to let computer users put a fashion spin on PCs and peripherals.

"As we see with similar trends in the cell phone industry, consumers are looking for uniquely styled products to meet their individual tastes," said Matt Barlow, worldwide director of marketing and business development for Microsoft Hardware.

Although Microsoft is better known for its software, the Redmond, Wash., company is a leader in sales of keyboards and mice. Its chief rival is Swiss-based Logitech International .

The three new mice products with Tilt Wheel Technology are the Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer, the IntelliMouse Explorer (with a cord) and the Wireless Optical Mouse. The IntelliMouse Explorer is ergonomically tailored for right-handed people, while the Wireless Optical Mouse is designed to be used with either hand.

All the new mice use optical technology, meaning they do not have roller balls in their bases but instead use reflected light to trigger cursor moves. The company said it has upgraded its optical technology to extend the battery life of wireless optical mice.

Microsoft also introduced four wireless keyboard-mouse combination packages. One of the products--the Wireless Optical Desktop Elite--features a tilting scroll wheel on the keyboard in addition to one in the mouse.

The new wireless devices depend on radio signals at a frequency of 27MHz, the same frequency used by radio-controlled toys. The devices have "smart receivers" to reduce potential signal interference, according to Microsoft.

The mice and keyboards will be widely available worldwide in stores and online by the end of September, Microsoft said. The retail price of the leather Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer will be about $65, while the Wireless Optical Desktop Elite package will likely retail for $105, according to Microsoft.