By Jonathan Charles | Jun 19, 2012 11:00 AM EDT
Along with the unveiling of its two "Surface" tablets, Microsoft also announced a duo of accessories: the Touch Cover and Type Cover. Ultra thin, the covers offer detachable keyboards and trackpads.
Microsoft revealed the Touch Cover will include a trackpad and keyboard, which is pitched as a more efficient typing device. It's a differentiator to the iPad: Apple's OS, regardless of buying a keyboard, is arguably not built for extensive productivity sessions. For users who want to be in the desktop side of Windows 8 on Surface, the trackpad and keyboard should be a welcome accessory.
The Touch Cover adds 3mm in thickness to the tablet, and attaches to the tablet via a magnetic connector similar to Apple's Smart Cover. Microsoft claimed the keyboard senses key touches as gestures, which apparently means faster typing. The products haven't been tested, though, so it remains to be seen how well the keyboard performs in practice.
The keyboard includes a built-in accelerometer, which recognizes the force of the key press. If the keyboards can predict where a finger will be, or sense the slightest touch, then the lack of feedback on traditional membrane keyboards could be a distant issue. Microsoft's talk of gesture-based keyboards sounds similar to Swype for Android, which allows users to swipe across keys to chain letters together instead of typing individual letters. That functionality could reinvent typing ... if it works.
There's also five colors to choose from - blue, white, pink, black and red - which is something companies aside from Nokia have been wary of offering. It took Apple around ten months to introduce the white iPhone 4 - it released April 2011, after the phone's original launch during June 2011.
The second cover is the Type Cover, which isn't a gesture-based keyboard and is instead tactile. It's basically a very slim version of a full keyboard - it adds 2mm of thickness to the devices - to the point where it almost seems like the tablet and keyboard are one device. A clickable trackpad is included.
Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows division, held the Touch Cover with one hand during the presentation, showing just how little the Cover weighs.
Microsoft hasn't revealed pricing or a launch date, which is probably because the tablet won't arrive until Windows 8 has been announced. The accessories are definitely striking, and the gesture keyboard in particular is something other OEMs aren't doing.
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