Ahead of the Windows 8 release at the end of October, Microsoft has opted to jump the gun and make a few new OS-specific accessories available in the form of the Wedge Mobile Keyboard and Wedge Touch Mouse -- two aluminum-clad products with a few unassuming tricks up their sleeves.
Aside from the rock-solid build quality, Bluetooth-connectivity, and Windows 8-specific keys (charms, search, etc.) the Wedge Mobile Keyboard's magic lies in its cover. The soft rubber surface is meant to be placed against a tablet's screen when in transit, and the battery compartment of the keyboard pulls double duty as a hand grip so that you can carry that tablet and the keyboard easily with one hand.
But the cover hides another secret: if you fold it in half, it will hold its shape, allowing you to bend it into a stand for a Windows 8 tablet, ensuring the piece always maintains some utility.
The Wedge Touch Mouse, meanwhile, is a tiny piece of distinctly-shaped technology which also makes use of Bluetooth and Microsoft's BlueTrack technology. But what hides beneath the buttons is a touch-sensitive surface which allows you to scroll up and down through the Metro UI. Additionally, a minor, but smart feature of the mouse revolves around the battery compartment: once you open its spring-loaded cover with the push of the button, you can't latch it again unless the battery is placed in the right direction. It's a little thing, but so, so ingenious.
In addition to the Wedge accessories, Microsoft also released the Sculpt Mobile Keyboard and Touch Mouse, which lack some of the premium styling and functionality of the aforementioned products, but still offer a wireless connection, and ability to navigate through the Windows 8 UI quickly and easily. Furthermore, the Microsoft Touch Mouse, which first landed in consumer hands last year, has been updated with Windows 8 multitouch gestures (but can be programmed for Windows 7-style gestures if you like. All the products will begin shipping to retail outlets in August in time for the Windows 8 launch. The Wedge keyboard and mouse will cost $US80 and $US70, respectively, while the Sculpt keyboard and mouse will each cost $US50. The Touch Mouse will still sell for $US80. [Microsoft]