Honey, Apple shrank the wireless Bluetooth keyboard

Apple currently offers two keyboards for its desktop and notebook Macs.

• If you opt for the wired standard keyboard, you get a full-sized keyboard with full alphanumeric keys, function keys, 22-key numeric keypad and 16-key cursor keypad. The benefit of the aluminum full-sized keyboard is that it’s less expensive ($49.95), doesn’t require batteries, and has two USB 2.0 ports. It’s also 17 inches wide, and is tethered to your Mac by a standard USB cable.

• If you choose the wireless Bluetooth keyboard, you may be surprised to realize that the keyboard is tiny — it looks like a laptop keyboard. It only contains the alphanumeric keys with function keys. No separate numeric keypad, and only four cursor keys. It’s also more expensive ($79.95), requires batteries (3 AA cells) and doesn’t have any USB ports. The benefit is that you have a wireless keyboard that you can easily take with you, or hold in your lap, or even use from across the room. It’s only 11 inches wide, so you can stuff it into your briefcase or luggage.

This change occurred last year, when Apple introduced its aluminum iMacs and matching keyboards. Previously, when Apple sold its white plastic iMacs, you had white keyboards in a clear plastic housing. In that era, the wired keyboard and the wireless Bluetooth keyboard were identical, both offering a full complement of keys. (You can use these new keyboards with older Macs; you can also use older keyboards with new Macs.)

If you buy a new iMac or Mac Pro, you can specify whether you want the wired or wireless keyboard. If you have a MacBook, MacBook Pro or Mac Mini, you can buy a wired or wireless keyboard as an accessory.

What about typing? Both aluminum keyboards have small flat keys, like those in the MacBook. They take a while to get used to… but once you do, you’ll find them very quick and responsive. Note that some keys, like the caps lock, have to be held down for a moment for them to work; if you just tap them, they don’t function.

One of the places where it would be great to use the small wireless keyboard would be in a server room, when working with an Xserve. However, the Xserve doesn’t contain a Bluetooth transceiver, so you’ll have to use the standard wired keyboard to operate your server.

Can you use the Apple wireless Bluetooth keyboard with an iPhone or iPhone 3G? The answer is… no. It’s a software issue. Apple could enable that functionality by providing the appropriate Bluetooth device drivers on the iPhone through a firmware upgrade.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick