When wireless networking, a.k.a. WiFi, arrived in corporate and consumer markets in 2001, it was seen as yet another exotic technology that would generate little traction after the initial buzz.
There were hundreds of such technologies in the past that promised to ease use of computers, the pessimists said, and WiFi was just another one of those.
They were wrong. WiFi turned out to be the biggest personal technology hit since the Internet. WiFi addressed a very simple pain while accessing the Internet or downloading data: it did away with phone or Ethernet cords.
Another similar pain relates to the wires that connect a keyboard and mouse to the computer. If your desk is as cluttered as mine, you will know how difficult it is when your keyboard and mouse are confined to within a metre-length of your desktop.
The two products reviewed today will change this 'wire cramp' while you work: Logitech's diNovo Cordless Desktop and Microsoft Optical Desktop with Fingerprint Reader.
Logitech's diNovo package comes with a wireless keyboard that is compact and sleek with an uncanny resemblance to a notebook keyboard, a cordless mouse and a separate number pad that doubles up as a calculator and even displays the temperature.
There are two ways to connect the diNovo to your machine. It comes with a small radio receiver that can be plugged into a USB port, which is what notebook users will prefer.
Alternatively, for a desktop, you get a standalone USB port to plug the receiver into.
Logitech's software can be easily installed for both the keyboard and mouse, including encryption. The wireless keyboard takes little space without the numeric keypad and can be stowed anywhere since it doesn't have a wire running to the computer.
The mouse too is neat, small and wireless: ideal for a notebook user who dislikes the pinball or a touchpad. The Logitech keyboard looks really cool when you use it to control a home theatre running on a hard disk.
Imagine leaving on your coffee table an ugly IBM keyboard with a long cable running to the home theatre!
The Microsoft Optical Desktop with Fingerprint Reader -- we will call it the Microsoft wireless keyboard for short -- is well designed. The main feature of the keyboard -- a background-lit red biometric sensor capable of recognising fingerprints -- is found at the left of the keypad.
Typically, when you are asked to enter a log-on name and password or other personal information (like credit cards or official addresses), you just touch the sensor. The sensor registers your fingerprint and asks you for supporting information: name, password and any other relevant details.
This information is associated with your fingerprint and stored on the computer. Then, the magic starts working: the next time you are at a webpage asking you for log on information, you have to only touch the biometric sensor.
It recognises your fingerprint, fills in the details and you are on your way.
This fingerprint sensor does away with having to remember multiple usernames and passwords. But, here's a caveat: reviewers from trade publications tell me it doesn't work as well with browsers like NetScape or FireFox's Mozilla as it does with Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
I didn't test that out. Critics of Microsoft will, of course, point out that there are other nifty programs like Norton Password Manager that erase the need to scribble down your different usernames and passwords.
Microsoft's wireless keyboard, though, is bulletproof with its biometric scan.
So, which cordless keyboard is going to be your buy when you next upgrade your computer or want to get rid of those cords right away? The Logitech diNovo package retails at a little less than Rs 11,000.
That's expensive but if you are particular about the looks of your workstation, it's worth it. Microsoft's wireless keyboard is certainly more value for money at Rs 6,800 apiece and more secure with the fingerprint scanner but is, unfortunately, more clunky.