Monday, August 11, 2008

A Tablet PC friendly desktop keyboard

I’ve been thinking a bit about how to make desktop systems a little bit more Tablet friendly. There’s no doubt that a digitizing pad (especially with a view of the screen) is a good way to go, however, there’s also no doubt that one more device on the desk creates a little bit more of a mess.

So I’ve been wondering what it might be like to place this technology not in a separate device, but rather within the keyboard.

Here’s the basic idea:

Imagine a standard sized keyboard with a multi-touch display-slash-digitizer. Rather than make the whole keyboard virtual and lose the natural feel of keys, instead just make the less used keys virtual. This would be the standard mode of the digitizer. You’d see virtual representations of the keys displayed on the digitizer and you could touch them just like you would a normal keyboard. You could even press more than one key just like a regular keyboard since the digitizer surface would be multi-touch.

A secondary view of the digitizing surface would show all or part of the display and work as a standard dual-mode digitzer, like that from NTrig. In other words, you could use a pen on the surface to handwrite or draw or you could use your fingers to gesture or control the windows.

Now I probably drew this too much in favor of portrait mode, but you get the idea.

If I had a keyboard like this I think I’d leverage the inking and handwriting capabilities on my desktop a lot more. Yes, separate devices are OK or even a digitizer built into the display, but from my experience I slowly stop using things if my desk starts to get too cluttered and when sitting at a desk I’m not so sure if digitizing displays is the most economical way to go–especially if the features are used let’s say only 25% of the time.

Oh, and while I’m at it, I’d also like to be able to magnetically dock my mouse to the keyboard (with either a magnet on the mouse or keyboard and a metal strip on both sides), not only to help keep my desk more organized while not in use, but also as a charging surface for a bluetooth mouse when not in use. I like this kind of idea, both helps with organization and provides a much needed charging connection. I hate it when bluetooth mice go dead.