One of my buddies noted, after shopping for a new ergonomic keyboard, that all the new Microsoft keyboards have key layout altered in some annoying way.
The first changes in recent memory were in the the Natural Keyboard Elite which sports two rather dubious alterations: the change of the arrow keys from an inverted-T to a diamond-shaped configuration, and the alteration of the six-key cluster containing the Insert, Delete, Home (etc.) keys into a 2-column/3-row (intead of 3-column/2-row) layout. Not new is how the F-keys have been squeezed together, rather than being grouped into sets of four keys as has traditional starting with the original IBM PC AT keyboard.
The latest annoyance comes with the newest keyboards such as the Natural Multimedia Keyboard: the aforementioned six-key cluster is down to five keys, with the conspicuous disappearance of the “Insert” key and double-sizing of the “Delete” key. Now, I’ll grant that the “Insert” key (which typically switches text editing between insert and replace modes) was more relevant in way-back days of fixed-width fonts, but nevertheless it does remain useful for one specific segment of users: software developers (like myself) who work with source code (which is typically displayed in fixed-width type).
In the past I’ve favoured Microsoft’s keyboards because of layout: specifically I like to use a split keyboard with the number keys split between the “6” and “7” keys (since I learned to type “6” with my left hand). (Unlike some I’m not particular “religious” about the placement and/or size of the “Backspace” and “Enter” keys). For someone like me who uses a keyboard using memory and touch—rarely looking at the keyboard—these kinds of changes are a real pain in the ass. I thought it was kind of goofy back when they added the “Windows” and “Menu” keys but at least in those cases it was easy not to use the added keys. This time I think they really need to go back to the drawing board.