Though Think Outside announced last month that it would be making a Bluetooth version of its Stowaway folding keyboard, details were sketchy at that time. Today, the company revealed much more information.
The company expects this keyboard to be released sometime around late May. Because this is still several months away, not all the details of this release have been ironed out. However, a company spokesperson was willing to reveal that this device will definitely be released by an OEM. This is similar to the deal under which palmOne sells the Stowaway XT model under the name “Palm Ultra-Thin Keyboard”. Think Outside has not yet decided whether it will release one under its own brand name.
The Think Outside spokesperson wasn’t willing to reveal at this time who this OEM will be. However, it is known that it will be a Pocket PC licensee. Think Outside is having difficulties with the Palm OS Bluetooth stack which will delay the release of a driver for this platform. However, the company fully intends to release a Palm OS driver as soon as possible, and also one for the Symbian OS.
The OEM will make the final decision on what this model will cost, but the Think Outside spokesperson said it will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $100.
Like the rest of the Stowaway line, this will be a full-sized keyboard that folds up to make it more portable. Reportedly, it will resemble the Stowaway XT, the thinnest and lightest version of this line of keyboards.
Why a Bluetooth Keyboard Is Necessary
Up until now, users have been unable to share a keyboard among most handheld models because of incompatible ports. This problem has been partially alleviated by using infrared to communicate between the handheld and the keyboard, but this isn’t an ideal solution, because the infrared ports on the two devices must be kept constantly aligned.
Bluetooth, on the other hand, was designed from the beginning to allow computers to connect to their peripherals without wires and without requiring a constant line-of-sight connection. This means Bluetooth is well suited to allowing a variety of handheld models to connect to a single portable keyboard model.
This keyboard will be based on the Bluetooth Spec 1.1, HID 1.0a and will be able to work with essentially any smartphone, handheld, or cell phone that has the Bluetooth HID (human interface device) profile in its software stack.
One significant limitation of Bluetooth accessories is poor battery life; however, according to Think Outside, the Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard will operate for over four months on two AAA batteries.