It's hard to compete with Steve Jobs announcing new iPods, but in a roomful of 100 journalists at Microsoft's computer-hardware launch event Wednesday in Seattle, I saw only a few tracking Jobs while Microsoft entertainment and devices boss Robbie Bach delivered his news

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It’s hard to compete with Steve Jobs announcing new iPods, but in a roomful of 100 journalists at Microsoft’s computer-hardware launch event Wednesday in Seattle, I saw only a few tracking Jobs while Microsoft entertainment and devices boss Robbie Bach delivered his news.

The highlight was new BlueTrack optical and laser technology that lets mice work on most any surface, including carpet and shiny stone countertops.

“We’re going to reinvent our entire mouse business, starting today,” Bach said.

Mice may not get the buzz like iPods and even the Zune, but hardware is a great business for Microsoft.

The company has made a profit and grown sales every year since it started making hardware in 1982, Bach said.

It has sold more than 400 million units of hardware so far.

The BlueTrack technology is intriguing but it may take awhile to take off because initial models coming in November aren’t cheap — $100 for a full-size Explorer mouse and $80 for a Mini notebook model.

I think Microsoft will sell truckloads of another mouse introduced Tuesday, the curving Arc model that folds closed like a flip phone or Star Trek communicator. It’s coming out this month for $60.

The $100 Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 has a smoked translucent border and curved design. It includes a battery-life-indicator light and a dedicated button for Windows Flip3D, a Vista Aero feature for scrolling through open windows on the desktop.

The desktop kit is available this month and a $60 keyboard-only version is due in March.

BlueTrack will also be used in a new wireless gaming mouse, the Sidewinder X8, that Microsoft announced Tuesday. It will be available in February for $100.

The LifeCam Show, a $100 Webcam that takes 8-megapixel still shots, goes on sale in October. It has software to customize your appearance for video calls using Microsoft’s Live services.

Microsoft’s designers worked with major PC makers to be sure the hardware would look right with their upcoming computers, said hardware marketing director Barb Schwabe, so the mice and keyboards may have clues about the look and feel of the next generation of PCs.

This material has been edited for print publication.

Brier Dudley’s blog excerpts appears Thursdays and occasionally on other weekdays. Reach him at 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com.