Apple definitely thinks of user safety more than most computer companies, and even includes basic ergonomic instructions in its manuals. The new 14" color monitor meets the strict Swedish guidelines for emissions, and if this rumor comes true, among large computer companies, Apple will stand alone at the forefront of ergonomic design.
I’ve heard that Apple is working on a new mouse with more rounded curves that users might find more comfortable than the current mouse. That’s not terribly exciting, but what is exciting is the new keyboard Apple also has in the works, reportedly slated for a January release. The keyboard should list for about $250, which compares relatively well with the $185 Extended Keyboard II, considering the extra hardware that goes into the ergonomics.
Like some of the more esoteric keyboards from small companies, Apple’s new keyboard "breaks" in the center, so that the left and right halves rotate around pivot points. You can also angle the sides when it is broken for maximum comfort, and the keyboard even comes with palm rests. Although this is terribly hard to visualize, and I don’t have a QuickTime movie for you, I’ve heard that the design makes typing extremely comfortable.
I can’t vouch for this keyboard until I can literally get my hands on one, but writing as one who suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome (getting better, but not perfect yet), I think it’s an amazing move for Apple. Apple is now the single largest manufacturer of personal computers (surpassing IBM just recently) and it looks good to be the first major company to offer a radical keyboard design that might help prevent repetitive stress injuries (although Apple’s rumors make no claims to that effect, and rightly so).
There are a few potential problems with the keyboard. First, no one has ever conclusively proved that split or bifurcated keyboards will help prevent repetitive stress injuries. My feeling is that they can’t be any worse than standard keyboards, so that’s a moot point. Second, you run into some oddities with split keyboards with the keys in the middle of the keyboard, since many people often actually use both hand for the "g" and "h" keys. I heard that one manufacturer of split keyboards duplicated some keys to avoid that problem.
However, as I said, from a public relations point of view, just having this alternative available will make Apple look good, and the fact that they will reportedly release a PC version shortly after the Mac version will help too. Computer users of all types will know that the only mainstream alternative (hmm…) keyboard comes from Apple, and that can only reflect well on the rest of the company’s products.
I also predict that other major computer companies will announce other alternative input devices. Although I’d be surprised if any of them went as far as Infogrip’s chording keyboard, there are a number of small companies out there working on split and otherwise ergonomic keyboards. I imagine they would be happy to license their designs to Compaq or IBM. And then everyone wins.