Living Room Multimedia PCs and Mice

At last month’s Consumer Electronics Show, multimedia PCs masquerading as living room media center entertainment devices were once again in abundance. Most offered some sort of cumbersome remote control device which gave limited access to the system’s functionality.

Almost completely ignored was the fact that these boxes are all computers, most of them running Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE). Well, I don’t know about you, but if I am going to stick a computer in my living room, I had better be able to use the thing as a PC, for things like web surfing on my high definition TV, checking e-mail, and more.

But, as we know, the living room is not the same thing as an office, and most living rooms therefore do not have nice, convenient smooth, flat surfaces for using with ones cursor control device (e.g. a mouse). In fact, quite the opposite – I find that my optical wireless mouse typically falls off the couch or gets sat on – and either way, it’s annoying.

The solution, of course, is integrating the pointing device into the keyboard as shown in the image below in two variations of wireless keyboards available from a small PacRim company whose name I don’t recall. The image is of a Sony VAIO wireless keyboard being offered with Sony’s MCE solution.



Years ago, when wireless keyboards first came out, Logitech had some models with built-in track balls. That meant you could leave the keyboard on your lap, and control the cursor without worrying about the mouse disappearing or getting flattened. Pretty darn efficient if you ask me. But then Logitech stopped making those keyboards, and no one else of note picked up the slack.

My informal survey of Logitech and Kensington at CES shows that neither has imminent plans to address the need for a wireless keyboard for living room MCE devices with an integrated pointing device. Nor did I see HP or any other MCE system vendor other than Sony (see above image) with such an integrated keyboard.

Suffice it to say that Sony typically has the consumer electronics scene figured out so since Sony appears to have figured out what people want with their MCE PCs (with the exception of DRM, of course) maybe others will wise up, or maybe some of those Far East peripheral makers will strike it big with their integrated keyboards instead.

Until then the mouse will keep slipping off the couch or be sat on.