Microsoft doesn’t just make buggy, vulnerable software, it creates some very nice keyboards and mice, as well. I stuck (sometimes literally) with the Mighty Mouse, but only so I can reduce the possibilities of RSI by frequently having to pick it up and blow/lick it to get the all-round scrolling going again. Microsoft keyboards are great, but I can’t stand the Windows logo being where the Apple sign should be. It’s just plain wrong.

Now Microsoft’s hardware division is creating the “Ultimate Keyboard” that will allow users of Vista and Windows Live services to access key features more easily. It will be ergonomic, backlit and wireless, and comes with a laser mouse.

A round button at the bottom, below the spacebar, initiates the Start menu of Vista or Windows XP. A Windows Live Call button will provide one-touch access to a list of Windows Live Messenger buddies online to initiate a chat session. And a Gadgets button provides similar access to the Dashboard-like feature in Windows Vista – a bit like the Mac’s F9 key, but more obvious and better named.

I like the look of Microsoft’s Vista keyboard, and hope Apple can take a fresh look at its next generation of keyboards. Unergonomic and prone to display a user’s sandwich crumbs and eyelashes (go on, pick yours up and look at the back), Apple’s keyboard is as awful as the one-button mouse.

Backlighting, and more prominent buttons for waking widgets, exposing Exposé, seeking Spotlight, and starting up are all good ideas that Apple should be copying from Microsoft. Don’t be proud, just do it better.