Physical Keyboards Are Awesome

Ron Miller wrote an article this morning concerning a new Microsoft keyboard announced recently at Mobile World Congress. Miller is not impressed:

Microsoft has a little problem and it’s time we all admitted it. We have to gather the family in the living room, sit down Microsoft in the comfy chair and have a little heart to heart. Everybody can see it, except Microsoft — and it could be time for an intervention.

It’s the keyboard thing, Microsoft. Enough already. Design your software to take advantage of a touch screen. Let the keyboard go, dude.

The article continues in a similar vein for some time. I must protest, because physical keyboards are awesome.

If you visit the main TechCrunch office, you’ll note an open office filled with nerds, about half wearing headphones. Everyone is typing on Apple laptops, either by themselves, plugged into one monitor or several, or essentially ‘docked,’ with the user employing a standalone keyboard and touchpad to interact with the machine.

Missing from that mix? Anyone using a fucking iPad for work. Yes, there are some professions where an iPad or other tablet — this is where I cry — can be a great mixed-use device; the examples of doctors and salespeople are usually invoked at this point. But for people who spend quite a lot of time typing, I think that the following things are true:

  1. Typing is cool.
  2. Typing quickly is cooler.
  3. Typing quickly, and accurately, is coolest.

Ergo, physical keyboards. This post is brought to you by a large, mechanical keyboard that makes more noise than an oil-well fire. But it feels amazing, and I have memorized its layout sufficiently to type at a happy clip. I’ve been using iOS years longer than this keyboard, and am probably half as fast on mobile, at best. I flip between this hulking ruin and the actual best keyboard of all time, the built-in set of keys that my current Macbook Air came with.

Between those I type away quite contentedly across two operating systems and a host of cloud services. The keys themselves are the gateways to your interaction with the Internet.

Certainly mobile is an increasingly important category of our digital lives. For some of us, it is the primary interface for the Internet. But for us working stiffs who have to shit out words in one way or another, either in memos, posts, reports or email, having a keyboard that offers everything is the way to go. And that means that physical keyboards will have a place in my life for a long time — and I suspect yours as well.