With discrete components, the entire setup looks more like a desktop than a laptop.

Bending keyboard cover doubles as a tablet stand.

Bending keyboard cover doubles as a tablet stand.

The keyboard also contains a flip-out stand of its own.

The keyboard also contains a flip-out stand of its own.

The keyboard also contains a flip-out stand of its own.

Keyboard promises "full size comfort" complete with Windows Hot Keys.

The trackpad integration is seamless. I wonder how your fingers find the edge.

Battery compartment open.

Battery compartment open.

Battery compartment open.

Microsoft’s Elegant New Tablet Accessories Make Surface Easier To Use

Microsoft has another innovative approach for typing on tablets.

When Microsoft showed off their Surface tablet a few months back, it wasn’t the OS, the battery life, or the touch screen that stole the show. It was a clever case that doubled as a keyboard. In retrospect, of course that case was a big deal; typing is the one important thing that you really can’t do well on a contemporary tablet. Microsoft recognized the platform’s chief design flaw and fixed it.

Bending keyboard cover doubles as a tablet stand.

But this week, Microsoft revealed another keyboard (and mouse) solution for the Surface and other Windows 8 tablets. They’re called the “Wedge” Mobile Keyboard and Touch Mouse, and it’s an apt name, as the wedge is at the core of their design paradigm.

The keyboard is much like any compact Bluetooth keyboard you’ve seen. But where it differs is its folding case, which pivots to support the tablet like a monitor when the keyboard is in use. This simple piece of fabric ostensibly turns a Windows tablet into a PC.

Your hand rests on the fatter part of the mouse while your fingers drape over the skinnier part.

The mouse is just as interesting. Also playing on the “wedge” idea, it combines a trackpad and a traditional mouse by placing a whole touch surface right on top of a standard mouse. It might be overkill--after all, one style of pointer control can usually do--but it’s an interesting bridge technology to support multitouch gestures for those who insist on using a standard mouse (or those who really need one for using Photoshop or Illustrator in their desktop-style incarnations). What you may not notice from the picture, however, is just how tiny this mouse is. It’s the smallest, lightest mouse Microsoft has ever made, and it will fit in your pocket.

More and more, Microsoft’s unique approach to tablets is playing out. While the iPad is the perfect couch computer, Microsoft is trying to make the Surface into the perfect mobile computer. Of course, that isn’t stopping Microsoft from selling multiple, confusing SKUs of their tablet software. And, however unrealistic it may be, we can always dream of a workhorse tablet that can get by without the keyboard, can’t we?

The Wedge keyboard and mouse will be available “in the coming weeks and months” for $80 and $70, respectively.

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10 Comments

  • Simon Field

    I hate to point out the obvious here, but surely the better way to make a product 'easier to use' is to not tout a bunch of accessories which address functionality issues and just improve the functionality?

    Not to mention the hassle of having to carry around a bunch of extra stuff, turning your 'extra-slim' device into something far more cumbersome, having to spend a casual $150 for a mouse and keyboard seems pretty much like a hidden extra cost for a device which will probably already start at $350+.

    I suppose as well that in the case of things such as a mouse and keyboard for a tablet computer, a product design team may want to decide whether they want to make a laptop or a tablet in the first place rather than trying to make both at once.

  • Paras Valecha

    Oh, come on! These accessories are for other Windows 8 tablets that people are going to get. The Microsoft Surface already has a built-in kickstand as well as a touch cover and a type cover both of which double up as keyboards. Please get your facts right the next time. This is, certainly, not expected from Fast Co Design!

  • ChickenFriedSteak

    I thought the point of the MS Surface was it was already easy to use. And you can't, in all sincerity, tell me that these items haven't taken strong design cues from existing Apple products. I am all for competition but MS is still playing catch up.

  • Joe

    strong design cues? how dare microsoft put the keys in the same order? and tilt it towards the user? FOR SHAME.

    Don't see anything like apples bluetooth keyboard or mouse. 

  • buttonbag

    This is nice, but I don't see why you can't just use a laptop that way everything is together.

  • expertlearner

    Sorry, you can do all that and more with the surface but you can NOT with your laptop.

  • buttonbag

    Why not?

    It'll be easier to close up a laptop then go to that meeting rather than have to put away and carry a tablet and keyboard especially with two separate cases for each.

  • expertlearner

    Because you can NOT get your surface, stand up and go to a meeting or use it while your are passenger in a vehicle or while you are in a line waiting for any thing. Those and more reasons make the surface the perfect laptop.