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May 29, 2024

Microsoft Accessories Make Surprise Comeback Through InCase Partnership

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Jan 5, 2024

Longstanding Brand Revived After Abrupt Cancellation Last Year

Microsoft made waves in the consumer tech world today by announcing an exclusive partnership with peripherals company InCase to revive the Microsoft Hardware accessories brand. Less than a year after Microsoft unceremoniously dumped its lineup of popular mice, keyboards and other accessories, classic products like the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard and Microsoft Modern Mobile Mouse are slated to return in 2024 through a newly forged production and distribution deal.

The sudden reversal comes only 9 months after Microsoft pulled the plug on its PC accessories division last April, to the disappointment of many loyal fans. After more than 30 years in the game, the tech giant opted to exit the competitive hardware market to focus on its core software and cloud services.

Now, Microsoft has handed off design and manufacturing of its iconic accessories to industry upstart InCase. The LA-based firm will produce new iterations of classic Microsoft mice and keyboards later this year, complete with refreshed branding that pays homage to both companies.

Why Microsoft Changed Course

When Microsoft technologies chief Panos Panay announced the end of the company’s accessories business last spring, he framed it as a tough but necessary step to “invest in areas where we can add the most value.” Panay’s opaque statement left little room for hope that Microsoft would resume making PC gear.

Behind the scenes, however, it seems Microsoft was actively seeking a way to keep its peripherals brand alive by transferring production to a third-party. Sources say Panay and other leaders recognized belatedly how much brand equity existed in devices like the Microsoft Natural ergonomic keyboard, which had cultivated a small but devoted following in the office products market.

Rather than let that brand fade into obscurity, executives sought a manufacturing partner to take over. The eleventh-hour deal with InCase promises to revive Microsoft’s most iconic accessory products later this year:

Accessory 2024 Launch
Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard Q3
Microsoft Modern Mobile Mouse Q2
Microsoft Class Notebook Pen Q4

InCase emerged as an ideal partner because of its track record building accessories for major brands like Peloton and Sonos. The young company brings expertise in high-volume production and distribution that Microsoft lacked as it struggled to compete with PC peripheral giants like Logitech.

What to Expect From InCase Partnership

When they relaunch under the InCase banner in 2024, classic Microsoft accessories will feature co-branding to celebrate their shared heritage. Certain devices like the Microsoft Bluetooth Ergonomic Mouse, which was discontinued before release last year, will get a new lease on life later this year.

Industry analysts applaud Microsoft’s move to rescue its accessories brand by aligning with InCase. Through the partnership, Microsoft preserves its slice of the PC gear market while freeing resources to advance its Azure cloud and AI capabilities.

Technologies expert Carmi Levy said the InCase deal was likely the most elegant solution Microsoft could find once it decided to exit its own manufacturing operation:

“This allows Microsoft to retain residual value in the brand while enabling its hardware business to live on under the stewardship of a focused, dedicated partner.”

Observers say InCase will focus initially on resurrecting Microsoft’s most familiar mice and keyboards, starting with the Ergonomic line. But the collaboration agreement leaves room for the partners to explore new form factors and innovations further down the line.

We likely won’t see major departures from Microsoft’s aesthetics and design heritage. But refreshed colors, materials and wireless technologies could all be on the table when these classic accessories get retooled for 2024.

Whether the Microsoft name still carries enough clout to compete in the hotly contested PC gear market remains to be seen. But this surprise turn of events ensures Microsoft peripherals will have the opportunity to win over a whole new generation of customers.

Consumers Cautiously Optimistic

Early reactions to the announcement signal cautious optimism from end users who were disappointed when Microsoft pulled the plug last year. Loyal fans seemed resigned to the demise of beloved productivity tools like the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Mouse and Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse. Now they have reason to anticipate their possible return later this year.

Office manager Anita Dubey used Microsoft ergonomic keyboards and trackballs for over 15 years on the job. She says InCase will have to prove it can uphold the quality and reliability that turned her into a Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard devotee:

“I got so used to the comfort and efficiency of their ergonomic products that I bought them for my home office too. If InCase can match what made those devices so good for so long, I would absolutely purchase them again. It’s worth another try.”

IT consultant Peter Yang is taking more of a wait-and-see stance towards the newly announced device partnership:

“It seems like Microsoft didn’t know what it really wanted to do with its accessories arm in the first place if they so quickly reversed course. I’ll be looking for reviews on these relaunched products first before jumping back on the bandwagon.”

Nonetheless, Yang says he would consider re-adopting Microsoft gear if InCase lives up to the brand’s former reputation:

“There clearly remains demand for well-designed, durable Microsoft mice and keyboards. So if the quality is there under this new production model then I’m intrigued to try the modern versions.”

Microsoft likely faces skepticism from many former supporters as it seeks to rebuild trust that its peripherals business is here to stay and not headed for another sudden demise. Much depends on InCase’s ability to smoothly relaunch classic accessories while bringing fresh innovations tailored to today’s hybrid work environments.

But if the company can recreate the Microsoft magic that elevated previously mundane keyboards and mice into must-have productivity tools, then this surprise brand revival could inspire a whole new generation of users. For now, the accessories’ fate lies in the hands of InCase as production gears up in coming months.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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