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(Pocket-lint) - With security becoming an ever greater concern, Microsoft has turned to fingerprint recognition to protect your files on your computer, but rather than offer yet another dongle to plug in, Microsoft has added the device to a keyboard.

It's an understandable idea, disable the keyboard and you've disabled the computer and although the functionality on this keyboard won't be available to all, the basic elements such as the keys will be.

The keyboard connects by USB, has a clip on wrist guard and is pretty good on the whole. Once you have loaded the included DigitalPersona software, the keyboard can be plugged in. The software effectively stores the one unique password, rather than the fingerprint.

The fingerprint is then mapped onto the password. The problem here is that you'll still need to remember your initial password however. The idea is that the fingerprint saves you entering the password, but the underlying password remains the same. Thus, while the fingerprint simplifies the speed of use, you are not any more secure than with a standard keyed password.

In addition, it can become an issue when saving details to websites that cause problems with prolonged use of the AutoComplete password storage system. The classic overtyping and suffixing of passwords is not overcome with the fingerprint entry, nor is the decision by the website secure system to make your life a misery. More a failure of the web as a whole than the keyboard, which to be fair, makes intuitive use of existing MS and web coding technology.

One immediate problem we perceived as the keyboard and mouse slid from their box was the sharing of workstations. Happily, the DigitalPersona program allows Windows users to share a terminal using a fingerprint login.

Unfortunately, the whole process is somewhat undermined for Mac users. Mac users are safe with this keyboard, ideal if you need something a little larger or run a lot of MS programs on your machine. It runs nicely on OSX 10.1 and 10.2, but not OSX 10.0. Shame about the fingerprint recognition.

Also, be careful about using the USB ports on the keyboard- this caused an eMac using OSX 10.1 to seize up completely. To use the Internet Hotkeys, Mac users will need to be running IE 5.0 or above, Netscape Navigator v 6.1 or 7.0. The Multimedia Hot Keys communicate well with all releases of iTunes.

As you'd expect, PC compatibility is 2000 and XP only, as the older operating systems are shuffled out by new MS hardware. Ensure you have SP2 as it won't run on XP without it.

The mouse and keyboard combined soak up 60 MB of available hard disk space, so no problems there but again make sure your hard drive is meaty enough to take the hit.

Covering the mouse is old ground. Why not click through and check the full Intellipoint review we've already posted. Suffice to say, for both devices the range is about 10 feet, with a base attached to a cable (easier than a plug in dongle). Microsoft promise us battery life is around six months. Five AA batteries are included (to split between mouse and keyboard 2/3). So far there is no indication on keyboard battery consumption, but the key is the fingerprint scanner, most probably. The mouse buttons are multi-function, with twin buttons, clickable roller to switch between active windows, and left/right lean is ideal for accessing pull down menus on Windows OS.


This combination of keyboard and mouse from Microsoft is perfect for bringing a wireless solution to your desktop all with the added selling point of a fingerprint scanner.

Surely this should sell like hot cakes, however unfortunately we aren't so sure as we feel it there to drive sales and downloads of the latest Microsoft operating system than being a purveyor of wireless and security thinking.

Check out Logitech's solution before you part with your hard earned. If you'd like to experience more fingerprint action, MS have a mouse with the same reader built in, or for those happy with their mouse and keyboard combination a standalone reader unit.

Writing by Dan Leonard. Originally published on 18 November 2004.