It's not often I can get particularly excited about peripherals - mice and keyboards are just mice and keyboards, right? - but Microsoft has managed it with its September line-up refresh. As well as allowing a chance to get hands on with the already-announced Sidewinder X5 mouse and X6 keyboard and the Arc Mouse, the launch event also saw the debut of some rather funky new technology, and of course products sporting it.
That technology is called BlueTrack and according to Microsoft it is a pretty big revolution. The benefit of BlueTrack, according to Microsoft, is that it provides the precision of a laser mouse, with the tracking capabilities of optical mice. Surfaces such as wood, granite and carpet, usually difficult to use a mouse on, all work equally well with a BlueTrack mouse. Clear glass and mirrored surfaces aren't usable, but that's the case with any other tracking technology, too.
Proving the point that BlueTrack really does work on almost any surface, Microsoft's Andre Reuter had a product called the Microsoft Explorer Mouse working on granite, carpet and even a lump of bark - although he agreed that few users would require such a capability. The explorer uses 2.4GHz wireless and is rechargeable.
There is also a second mouse also sporting BlueTrack technology, called the Explorer Mini, which is oriented more towards notebook users, has a snap-in dongle and is battery powered, rather than rechargeable. The Explorer and Explorer mini should cost around £69.99 and £49.99 each. Andre confirmed that BlueTrack technology will be making its way into further Microsoft products in the coming months. The Sidewinder range is the obvious choice, seeing as BlueTrack is, as the Microsoft demonstration video says, Bluetrack is "better than optical. Better than laser. Period."
Speaking of Sidewinder, a couple of my questions regarding the X5 and X6 were answered by Andre. For one, Microsoft is definitely considering putting the switchable numpad design into a consumer-orientated keyboard - especially as it could be such a boon to left handed numpad users. For two, the original Sidewinder mouse will continue to be sold alongside the new X5, with each catering to different audiences- rather than the lesser-features X5 replacing the Sidewinder.
Last but not least, Andre let on that the Habu and Reclusa, developed in conjunction with Razer will also remain in the product line-up, although there isn't anything new planned form that relationship as yet. Personally I think that's a shame, as I really liked the Habu, but found the Sidewinder less impressive.