OEMs Announce Intent to Offer the New Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite

REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 17, 1997 — Microsoft Corp. announced today that a number of leading PC systems original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) plan to offer the Microsoft® Natural® Keyboard Elite, successor to the Microsoft Natural Keyboard, beginning in January 1998. OEMs planning to participate include Packard Bell NEC Inc., Micron Electronics Inc. and CompUSA (with its build-to-order personal computer line, CompUSA PC). In addition, CTX Computer has agreed to include the new keyboard with new systems shipping in 1998.

The Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite, which is scheduled for retail release in February 1998, is designed to allow users to place their hands, wrists and forearms in a natural, relaxed position for greater comfort while typing. Building on the success of its predecessor, which has sold more than 2.9 million units since it shipped in October 1994, the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite incorporates several design improvements. These include a smaller footprint, a USB-compatibility option for next-generation PC systems, and a lower estimated price tag.

Participating OEMs Include Top PC Systems Vendors

More than 15 OEM suppliers currently plan to offer the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite as an upgrade option.

“Now, people who buy PCs from these leading PC manufacturers can benefit from the comfort of the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite as soon as they sit down to work at their new computers,” said Rick Thompson, vice president of the Microsoft hardware group. “We’re excited that OEMs see the benefits of offering the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite as standard equipment with all their systems.”

Packard Bell NEC Inc., the second-largest PC maker in the United States, according to International Data Corp. (IDC), intends to offer the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite as an option with its new NEC PowerMate Education Station systems.

“NEC is very excited about including the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite with its PowerMate Education Systems,” said Gene Lambert, director of product marketing for NEC’s education sales program. “This pairing of NEC and Microsoft hardware technologies offers our K-12 and higher-education customers the best in product quality across their entire hardware purchase.”

Micron Electronics Inc., the third-largest direct-channel PC manufacturer in the United States at the end of the third quarter of 1997, according to IDC, also plans to offer the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite as an option with its Millennia ClientPro and Powerdigm systems.

“People are spending more time than ever on their PCs, and it’s important to us that our customers are comfortable while they use Micron computers,” said Jeffrey Moeser, vice president, desktop products at Micron Electronics. “The Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite is an ergonomic solution that allows users to focus on their tasks without discomfort caused by awkward placement of their hands, wrists and arms.”

The full list of OEMs that intend to offer the Microsoft Natural Keyboard as an upgrade with their systems is Advanced Creative Computers/DTK, Advanced-Interface Electronic Inc., Arsys Innotech Corp., CompUSA, Comstor Corp., ComTrade Electronics USA Inc., CTX Computer, Equus Computer Systems., Merit Distributing Inc., Micron Electronics., MidWest Micro, Mynix Technology Inc., Omni Tech Corp., Packard Bell NEC Inc., Paragon Development Systems Inc., Proteva Inc., and Seanix Technology Inc.

Hardware Features Help Enhance Comfort and Productivity

The Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite is designed for greater comfort. The split, gently sloped keyboard encourages a natural position. The width and angle of the keyboard also help users keep their shoulders straighter and arms more relaxed while typing. An integrated palm rest provides a surface on which users can rest their hands between periods of typing. Legs beneath the keyboard allow adjustments to accommodate different body sizes and chair and desk heights.

The Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite has 104 keys, three more than standard keyboards. Two of these are Windows® operating system-specific keys that provide easy access to the Start menu and enable quick shortcuts in Windows 95. The third key is an application key, which functions as a context-sensitive right-mouse button.

Microsoft teamed with experts in the fields of ergonomics, biomechanics and industrial design to test and refine the new keyboard as well as to develop educational materials and warning labels about how to use the keyboard properly. The Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite ships with three such warning labels and an Ergonomics Guide inside the user manual. The Ergonomics Guide was developed with the help of ergonomics experts such as Edie Adams, formerly of the Joyce Institute of Seattle and now the ergonomics manager at Microsoft, and Dr. David Rempel of the University of California at San Francisco Ergonomics Laboratory.

The warning labels and Ergonomics Guide are designed to educate users and provide information on how to use the product. The labels also direct users to the Ergonomics Guide, which provides information on how to set up a comfortable work space, helpful exercises, and recommendations for work habits, such as taking frequent breaks while typing and maintaining a straighter wrist posture.

Retail Availability, Pricing and System Requirements

The Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite is scheduled to be widely available in February 1998 through authorized distributors and resellers. The estimated retail price is $64.95. The Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite will work with any x86 PC with a PS/2 port. To use the USB adapter (included in the box), a PC with a USB port running Windows 98 is required.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (NASDAQ
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Microsoft, Natural and Windows are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Microsoft does not claim that its new Natural Keyboard Elite will either prevent or cure repetitive stress injuries. Microsoft believes the Natural Keyboard Elite does allow the user to assume a more natural posture of the hands and wrists. Many factors may contribute to an individual’s discomfort during periods of repetitive activity. Some of these factors and the methods to minimize their adverse effects are explained in the warning labels and the Ergonomics Guide, which accompanies the new keyboard. They should be studied and followed by each user.

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