Q&A: Microsoft Hardware Introduces Products Designed to Set New Standards for Convenience, Mobility, Comfort and Design

REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 8, 2004 — During the past 20 years, the Hardware Group at Microsoft has studied the changing needs of its customers and responded with new technologies and innovations that have improved people’s PC experiences worldwide. Whether it’s the ability to more easily navigate documents using a scroll wheel to longer battery life via optical technology or a more comfortable overall experience through applied ergonomics, the work done in the labs and design studios at Microsoft has transformed the way people interact with their computers in powerful new ways.

Tom Gibbons, general manager, Microsoft Hardware Division.

Tom Gibbons is a Microsoft veteran of more than 10 years and the General Manager of the company’s Hardware Division. PressPass recently spoke with Gibbons to learn more about these new products, and how Microsoft Hardware’s vision for the desktop and beyond will improve the everyday computing experience.

Building on Microsoft Hardware’s 20 years of innovation, today marks the debut of the company’s new line of mice and keyboard products — featuring Microsoft’s first hardware products with fingerprint recognition technology. These new devices are designed to deliver advancements in convenience, comfort, mobility and design to the desktop and beyond. Coinciding with the worldwide product unveiling today in Paris, Microsoft Hardware is bringing together executives, reporters and French designer Philippe Starck — who collaborated with Microsoft on a new optical mouse — to provide an in-depth look at new innovations sure to bring new possibilities to customers worldwide.

PressPass: It’s a busy day for Microsoft Hardware. Tell us about the new products debuting today.

Gibbons: We are launching a diverse new lineup with nine new products that break the traditional hardware mold. Our suite of mice and keyboards offers advancements in four categories — convenience, mobility, comfort and design — to both consumers and businesses around the world.

Making their debut today, Microsoft’s Fingerprint Reader products offer a convenient alternative to passwords with the touch of a finger. Available in three products — a wireless mouse, desktop or standalone reader — this technology is designed to alleviate the frustration many people experience when trying to manage the multitude of passwords needed to shop online, access frequent flyer information or read e-mail. These products are very easy to use and intuitive, and we think they will help stem the tide of password fatigue we discovered was a real frustration during research.

We’re also introducing a unique curved keyboard layout, designed by Microsoft ergonomists to deliver enhanced comfort for flat keyboard users — especially important as people’s time in front of the computer continues to rise. This keyboard, available in the Wireless Optical Desktop Comfort Edition, makes it easier to use the PC for long time periods due to its unique six degree angle that creates a more natural wrist and hand alignment.

One of our group’s key goals is to make advances in hardware that help customers get more from their software, and this year we’re introducing a new feature that continues our work in this area. We’ve added a zoom slider to the new Wireless Optical Desktop that will help people quickly and easily zoom in and out of photos and documents — without the guess work that zooming requires today.

PressPass: What other new products are available today?

Gibbons: Microsoft is also unveiling the Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse, which makes it easier to stay productive while on the go with time-saving features and longer-lasting battery life than other wireless notebook mice currently available.

Additionally, building on our first Bluetooth desktop, we are introducing updated peripherals that place mice and keyboards at the heart of the PC experience. Using the expanded Bluetooth profile support integrated into Windows SP2 and a USB transceiver, the new Optical Desktop Elite for Bluetooth and IntelliMouse Explorer for Bluetooth provide people with the added convenience of being able to wirelessly exchange and sync information between their PC and Bluetooth devices, including Pocket PCs, cell phones, printers, mice and keyboards, all from up to 30 feet away (9.15 meters).

These nine new products are in addition to the four stylish mice introduced earlier this year, including the Optical Mouse by S+ARCK, designed in collaboration with renowned French designer Philippe Starck.

PressPass: What sets Microsoft’s mice and keyboards apart from others currently available?

Gibbons: Microsoft mice and keyboards deliver first rate performance, comfort and design that improve your experience with software. Similar to many everyday items that we take for granted, people don’t realize how integral mice and keyboards are to their daily lives.

Our goal is to help consumers and businesses understand how better quality mice and keyboards can make a marked difference in their computing experience. That’s why we don’t just put our logo on any mouse or keyboard and consider our job done. Instead, we spend countless hours talking to consumers and business decision makers worldwide, asking them how we can deliver mice and keyboards that better fit their needs. We observe how people are using their PCs everyday and apply insights from our observations and over 20 years of experience into product development. Finally, we try to anticipate upcoming needs, in order to deliver new features and technologies that really impact how people use their computers each day.

PressPass: As a software company, how does Microsoft Hardware fit into the company’s overall strategy?

Gibbons: When you think about Microsoft you probably think of software, not hardware. But you should, as hardware also is our passion. As Microsoft strives to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential, the Hardware group has focused on delivering innovations that enhance the software experience to make people’s time spent on the computer easier, more comfortable and productive. Since introducing the company’s first mouse over 20 years ago to help people better navigate Microsoft Word, we have consistently been leading the way with breakthrough features that improve people’s experiences with software.

PressPass: What are some specific areas of the hardware business you feel are poised for growth?

Gibbons: Computer peripherals represent a thriving industry for Microsoft. In fact, our business has recently expanded in two critical areas. First, the non-retail market; where we are putting a greater degree of focus on selling through our partners to small, medium and large businesses worldwide. And second, we’ve seen tremendous growth in our wireless business in international markets.

PressPass: Why do you think businesses should consider upgrading to better quality mice and keyboards?

Gibbons: As I mentioned earlier, employees are spending more time on the computer than ever before, making it increasingly important for businesses to consider all aspects of their employees’ workspace including mice and keyboards. In an environment where every increase in workforce productivity has an important impact on the bottom line, well-designed workstations that include ergonomically designed keyboards and mice with innovative time-saving features can go a long way toward helping employees succeed and businesses thrive.

Microsoft Hardware has a unique market opportunity. According to industry estimates, worldwide computer shipments will increase 13 percent in 2004 as businesses upgrade their computers. Nearly 100 million PCs are expected to be replaced this year and 120 million more in 2005. Combined, those replacements surpass the hardware volumes seen during the height of the pre-year 2000 upgrade in 1998 and 1999.

PressPass: What can we expect to see in the future from Microsoft Hardware?

Gibbons: For over 20 years, Microsoft Hardware’s mission has been to provide peripherals and other technology that enables great software experiences. In the future, we will continue to bring our unique understanding for how people interact with hardware and software together, to improve the overall computing experience. As people’s use of PC’s becomes increasingly sophisticated — where they’re editing photos, making and downloading movies for example — we’ll be there with the input devices that make the experience easier, more comfortable and productive.

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