On February 21st Microsoft is introducing the Arc Keyboard exclusively in BestBuy stores. Like Microsoft’s Arc Mouse, the Arc Keyboard stands out for its design. About the size and weight of a thick magazine, the Arc Keyboard blends inconspicuously into its surroundings. It stores conveniently and maintains a low profile. The Arc Keyboard weighs less than a pound and measures less than an inch thick. Upon closer look, it is evident that there were aesthetic design considerations made in creating this keyboard.
When it comes to functionality, there is nothing ground breaking here. Form and design is where the Arc Keyboard excels. The industrial designers at Microsoft took inspiration from modern home accessories like flatware, lighting fixtures and vases. The result is a modern and simple keyboard that fits neatly into the home. The designers concentrated on creating a peripherial well suited for home use. We are used to seeing keyboards front and center in our office. The home, however, is meant to be more comfortable and inviting, and so is the Arc Keyboard.
Microsoft Hardware industrial designer Monique Chatterjee:
“The design tenets that we looked to for the Arc Keyboard were simplicity and crisp softness, creating an aesthetic for this product that is casual and sophisticated at the same time. We drew our design inspiration directly from the places where we envision this product will be used so it perfectly blends with existing home accessories.”
Its light and thin structure make this keyboard feel delicate, but not flimsy. For home use I would recommend treating it more like a nice vase and not a throw pillow. The keys themselves are standard black matte, but the sleek black body surrounding the keys is quick to collect fingerprints. The small form makes the keyboard easily mobile within the home, but this is not designed to be a travel keyboard. The already small keyboard does not minimize and is not sold with a traveling case like the Arc Mouse.
The very subtle arc is not all that noticeable when typing on the keys. Besides looking nice the arc does not really add all that much functionality or ergonomic support. Notable is the four-way directional pad that consolidates the arrow keys into one pivoting button.
A low profile 2.4GHz USB transceiver provides wireless connection to your computer. For convenience the USB dongle magnetically snaps to the bottom of the keyboard for storage. The Arc Mouse also uses this concept. For basic functionality, no software is required. Set up is as easy as plugging in the USB transceiver. There is an initial keyboard recognition that runs on a Mac. To customize your keys to fit your needs, Microsoft offers a PC and Mac version of IntelliType Pro. With IntelliType Pro software, you can reassign many of the keys to open a program, file, or Web page, or to perform commands, such as Search. Each application you use can have different key assignments. You can disable keys you sometimes press accidentally, like CAPS LOCK.
The keyboard may be powered off and on to conserve battery life. A green indicator light on the upper right hand corner flashes 3 times for off and 1 long green flash for on. The green light does not remain on when the unit is on.
PC that meets the requirements for and has installed one of these operating systems: Windows® 7, Windows Vista®, Windows XP.
MAC (Mac OS X v.10.4–10.6x)
2-AAA batteries are included.
The Arc Keyboard is sold separately from the Arc Mouse. Although both use the arc as an underlying design structure, the Arc Keyboard looks more like a distant cousin to the Arc Mouse rather then a side-by-side companion. The arc on the keyboard is very subtle, while the arc on the mouse is exaggerated.
I am guessing the keyboard was designed after the success of the Arc Mouse and perhaps by different design teams. The Arc Mouse comes in several different colors , but for now the Arc Keyboard is only sold in black. The two are sold separately and require their own USB transceiver.
The Arc Keyboard is available on BestBuy.com and will be available exclusively at Best Buy starting Feb. 21 for the estimated retail price of $59.95 (U.S).