With so many Windows 8 slate-style tablets available, it's no surprise that Microsoft is now offering a rechargeable, portable Bluetooth keyboard accessory. What is surprising is that this Microsoft-branded keyboard plays up its support for both Android and iOS devices, as well as Windows 8.
That's because of a three-way switch that moves between Android, iOS, and Windows modes, allowing you to pair with three different devices (one for each OS) at the same time, and jump between them at will. Other Bluetooth keyboards can work across different operating systems, but you may have to go through the re-pairing process each time. The internal battery is, according to Microsoft, good for up to six months of use, and recharges via a Micro-USB connection.
This small form-factor keyboard is about the same size as you'd find on an ultraportable laptop, includes a soft-touch cover. The cover has a built-in slot for holding your tablet, and fits tablets up to 10mm thick. The cover also detaches, allowing you to set the tablet up on a tabletop while holding the keyboard in your lap.
In our brief hands-on time with the keyboard, the island-style keys felt solid and flex-free. I was able to type about as well as on a smaller laptop, like an 11-inch ultraportable. The lack of a cursor-control device, such as a touchpad or even pointer stick makes it hard to consider as a full-time interface for a Windows 8 tablet.
The Universal Mobile Keyboard will be available in October, for $79. The similaris slightly larger, also works with the same three operating systems, and costs $49.
Microsoft is also releasing a new version of its Arc Touch Bluetooth, identical to the Surface-branded version paired with the Surface Pro tablet, but in a more generic grey color, and minus any Surface branding. That mouse will cost $69 and be available in late September.