Microsoft has decided the lowly keyboard can have glam. The company best known for software also produces gadgets, most notably mice and keyboards. The latest Microsoft keyboard is sleek, silver, and it sparkles. It's all dolled up to slip out of the den and into your living room.
But most important, the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 ($300) just works. Out of the box. No futzing or fiddling. That's different from my other experiences with Bluetooth wireless gear from Microsoft, which seemed iffy even after twiddling. The 8000 model comes with a dedicated Bluetooth transmitter that's part of a recharging station and automatically connects to the keyboard and accompanying mouse. Microsoft thinks enough of the ability to give it a name: "First Connect Technology."
Then comes the fun. As the lights go down for the home theater, small lights come up behind the keys. It's a nice innovation, if aimed at a small market. The keyboard is part of Microsoft's efforts to sell "Media Center PCs" as the hub of home entertainment, which only a small slice of American homes have tried.
A special key calls up the Media Center, and others control playback, recording, and pause. The keyboard includes a pad that acts as a mouse, as most couches don't have a flat surface for mousing. The keyboard and mouse run off batteries that recharge on the docking station, which also adds USB ports for other devices.
It adds up to a useful and attractive package, if an overly expensive one. But at least this date isn't too chic to also work.