Microsoft's hardware division is working overtime ahead of the launch of Windows 8: not only has it produced the Surface tablets and their clever keyboard-cum-cover, but it has just taken the wraps off a series of new mice and keyboards.
Back on familiar ground - Microsoft has a far longer history producing input devices than any other form of hardware - the Wedge Mobile Keyboard and Wedge Touch Mouse are, as the names possibly suggest, designed for use with the Surface for Windows 8 or Surface for Windows RT tablet devices. Connecting via Bluetooth, they provide a more classical keyboard feel and a fully-fledged traditional pointing device for Microsoft's latest attempt to stem the threat from Apple.
The Wedge Keyboard is designed to be as portable as possible, with a bare-bones tenkeyless design that includes special shortcut keys for the Metro UI. A hinged cover protects the keyboard in transit - and, cleverly, also turns it off to save power when covered - and doubles as an adjustable stand for tablets when the integral kickstand of the Surface design just isn't enough. Unlike the keyboard that comes bundled with the Surface tablets, the Wedge Keyboard has keys that feature laptop-style travel for a more comfortable experience.
The same, sadly, cannot be said of the Wedge Mouse. While it's true that it's one of the smallest and most portable mice around, its door-stop design is likely to be divisive - although the touch-sensitive surface doubling as a four-way touch scrolling trackpad may help alleviate concerns over the design.
For traditionalists, the Sculpt Mobile Keyboard and Sculpt Touch Mouse may be a better choice. The keyboard is based on the design of the Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard, and is again a tenkeyless layout designed for portability. Although it doesn't feature the same battery-saving cover of the Wedge, the Sculpt does go to sleep if unused for a period of time only to wake at the push of a button.
The Sculpt Touch Mouse continues the traditional design, looking far more like a traditional digital rodent than the Wedge, but including a four-way touch-strip in place of the traditional mousewheel. Unlike the Wedge, however, BlueTrack technology isn't included - meaning the optical system needs a cleaner surface than the Wedge.
Finally, the company announced plans to offer a firmware update to owners of its Microsoft Touch Mouse which will add Windows 8-specific multi-touch control features including two-finger swiping to switch apps and swiping from the right-hand edge of the mouse to instantly display the Charms menu.
UK pricing has yet to be confirmed, with Microsoft suggesting US RRPs of $79.95 and $69.95 for the Wedge keyboard and mouse respectively and $49.95 each for the Sculpt keyboard and mouse. Pictures of all the new peripherals are available on the Microsoft website