It’s hard to compete with Steve Jobs announcing new iPods, but in a roomful of 100 journalists at Microsoft’s computer hardware launch event in Seattle today, I saw only a few tracking Jobs while entertainment and devices boss Robbie Bach delivered his news.
The highlight was new “BlueTrack” optical and laser technology that lets mice work on most any surface, including carpet and shiny stone countertops.
“We’re going to reinvent our entire mouse business, starting today,” Bach said.
Mice may not get the buzz like iPods and even the Zune, but hardware is a great business for Microsoft. It has made a profit and grown sales every year since it started making hardware in 1982, Bach said. It sells a unit every second and has sold more than 400 million units since 1994.
The BlueTrack technology is intriguing but it may take awhile to take off because initial models coming in November aren’t cheap — $100 for a full-size Explorer mouse and $80 for a Mini notebook model.
I think Microsoft will sell truckloads of another mouse introduced today, the curving “Arc” model that folds closed like a flip-phone or Star Trek communicator. It’s coming out this month for $60.
Microsoft’s designers worked with major PC makers to be sure the hardware would look right with their upcoming computers, according to Barb Schwabe, hardware marketing director, so the mice and keyboards may have clues about the look and feel of the next generation of PCs.
Here’s a gallery of the models announced today, starting with the Arc:
The BlueTrack Explorer:
The $100 Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 has a “smoked” transluscent border and curved design. It includes a battery life indicator light and a dedicated button for Windows Flip3D, a Vista Aero feature for scrolling through open windows on the desktop. The desktop kit is available this month and a $60 keyboard-only version is coming in March:
Also announced today was the $50 Wireless Media Desktop 1000:
The LifeCam Show, a $100 webcam that takes 8 megapixel still shots, goes on sale in October. It comes with software for customizing your appearance while making video calls using Microsoft’s Live services: