CES 2009: The Asus Eee Keyboard - a wafer-thin media centre

The unexpected star of the Asus show today was the Eee Keyboard, an Atom-based media centre built into a wafer-thin keyboard.The Eee Keyboard, which s

The Eee Keyboard, which should be on sale by September, is essentially a very attractive shiny metal strip with individually inset keys, and a familiar set of video, audio and USB ports around the back. Next to the keyboard is a 5in touchscreen, which displays either the Windows desktop or a suite of bespoke media controls.

As innovative as this is, though, the real magic lies in getting the output to your TV. As well as all the usual wireless 'n' connectivity, the Eee Keyboard also has high bandwidth, Ultra-Wideband Wireless HDMI built in. A simple adapter in the back of your TV should be enough to get your movies on the big screen.

To save space there's no built-in optical drive, but Asus did confirm plans for a themed range of peripherals to accompany it. The biggest concern at the moment, however, is battery life. Right now the prototype is capable of about an hour and a half, which means it'll cut out before most movies are finished. Asus estimates that the final version will last for at least three hours, which will see you to Heath Ledger's finest moment in Batman Returns, at least.

The company also showed off a prototype of a new 'Dual mode' laptop, which builds on the idea of a secondary, lightweight boot mode for web browsing and media that it previously incorporated with ExpressGate.

Dual Mode laptops, though, have a complete secondary system, based on an ARM processor. The multitouch display for this second computer is built into the touchpad, but when the full-fat Windows machine is turned off to save battery life, it can use the main display for full screen movie play back or browsing.

Interesting stuff, but still only an early prototype with no confirmed model for market yet.