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Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Keyboard splits the spacebar

Microsoft's hardware division has announced another peripherals designed to coincide with the launch of Windows 8, but it's likely to provide divisive: the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard features a dual-function spacebar.

Designed, Microsoft claims, along ergonomic themes, the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard borrows the curved, flowing layout of Microsoft's previous Contour Curve design with a six-degree bend in the keyboard layout providing a dome-shaped arc to promote a neutral wrist position while still keeping keys within easy reach. A removable palm rest is also included in the design, along with accessibility keys for one-touch access to Windows 8 features including Search, Share, Device, and Settings menus. Wireless connectivity also allows the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard to be positioned wherever the user finds most comfortable.

"With Microsoft's new lineup of Windows 8 peripherals, we designed every piece of hardware to provide the best Windows experience possible on any device", claimed Brett Kelleran, general manager of Microsoft Hardware, at the unveiling. "The Sculpt Comfort Keyboard brings the best of Microsoft to the desktop - advanced ergonomics, improved productivity, great design and features optimised for Windows."

So far, the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard seems fairly sedate, but there's one change that will prove divisive: a split spacebar. According to Microsoft's research, around 90 per cent of typists use only their right thumb to press the space bar - meaning the extremely wide bar wastes valuable keyboard space. Microsoft's research also pointed to the backspace key as being the third most-used key behind the letter E and the spacebar itself, leading to a novel solution: splitting the spacebar in half and making the left-hand side a second backspace key.

The result, Microsoft claims, is a smoother layout where typists no longer have to break their flow to delete extraneous characters - but it's going to take some getting used to, and for those claimed 10 per cent who do use their left hand to hit the spacebar, could prove problematic.

The Sculpt Comfort Keyboard is expected to launch alongside Windows 8 in October, with UK pricing yet to be confirmed. Microsoft has, however, set a recommended retail price in the US of $59.95 (around £37 excluding taxes).

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