Hot on the heels of the first Windows 8 peripherals to emerge, Microsoft is throwing keyboards a curve, ergonomically speaking. The new Sculpt Comfort Keyboard and Sculpt Mobile Keyboard feature the distinctive comfort curve design, which adds an ergonomic curve to the standard keyboard design, alleviating wrist tension and allowing the hands to be held at more comfortable angles.
The Sculpt Comfort Keyboard is the Windows 8 update to the distinctive Microsoft Wireless Comfort Desktop 5000, with a detachable wrist rest and the bulge of Microsoft's comfort curve providing a contoured shape to the keyboard. The keyboard is also getting a few upgrades in time for Windows 8.
In addition to new Windows 8-specific hotkeys, the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard also introduces a new innovation in keyboard layout, with the spacebar widened for easier use and split into two separate keys, one as a dedicated spacebar, the other with the option to use as a backspace key. Microsoft designers claim that this new dual-function spacebar eliminates the need for "pinky reach" —the unnatural movement of the little finger on the right hand to strike the traditional delete key. In theory, this new layout will not only reduce unnecessary strain and potential repetitive stress injury, but also speeds up typing by making the backspace just as accessible as the spacebar.
The Sculpt Comfort Keyboard connects wirelessly to laptop and desktops via a wireless USB dongle. The keyboard uses two AAA batteries, which are included, and is compatible not only with Windows 8 and Windows RT, but also with Windows 7 and Vista.
The Sculpt Comfort Keyboard will be available soon for $59.95 (£37) through Microsoft and third-party retailers. Though specific dates were not shared, it is likely that the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard will be available on or around the 26 October launch of Windows 8.
The svelte sibling to the Comfort Keyboard is the Sculpt Mobile Keyboard, a wireless Bluetooth keyboard, designed for use with Windows 8 tablets and laptops. In many ways, it's an update to the Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000.
Measuring a mere 0.75in thick, this ultrathin keyboard still bears the distinctive Comfort Curve, with a gentle 6-degree curve providing many of the ergonomic benefits seen on the desktop keyboard, but without the extra bulk. The ultrathin keyboard is designed for use on the go with mobile PC devices, and offers up to 10 months of battery life from two AAA alkaline batteries. Equipped with Windows 8 hotkeys, the Sculpt Mobile Keyboard is designed for use with Windows 8 and Windows RT, and is also compatible with Windows 7 and Vista.
Microsoft covers the Sculpt Mobile Keyboard with a worldwide three-year warranty, and plans to sell the slim Bluetooth keyboard for $49.95 (£30). Like the larger desktop model, specific availability dates have not been announced, but it is expected that the keyboard will be launched in conjunction with Windows 8 late next month.