despens: … preferably with cursor and command/meta keys!
A lot great design has been sacrificed for design that looks good for the "third user", a user that hasn't bought a product yet (see http://asktog.com/atc/the-third-user/ ). The worst example is that it became virtually impossible to buy a phone with a QWERTY keyboard. Simple actions like searching, writing, editing, calculating, controlling became needlessly painful to execute, and it is increasingly painful to interact with people that use touch devices to create their communication and leave their choices to an auto correction algorithm. Keyboards became a symbol for old-fashioned, boring computing. Companies that produced rather well-designed phones with full keyboards already went bankrupt, are about to vanish completely, or are giving up on producing such devices. This is a regrettable development.
✸ The keyboard is the most powerful input device. Users can only be an equal in front of a computer if they are able to manipulate symbols adequately that control the computer. While a lot of effort is put into creating the illusion that computers work with images nowadays, they are still symbol processing machines. With symbol manipulation available, users can do magic (e.g. write a program), without it only the computer can do magic.
✸ Using a symbol system like the alphabet makes it possible to create any kind of human-to-human message with ease and any desired level of precision or ambiguity.
✸ Keyboards offer the simplest two-level interface: Novice users can orient themselves visually, if they grow to use certain features more often or with more detail, they can use precise keyboard combinations and shortcuts to execute functions that are present in their minds rather than the computer screen. Neither visible nor invisible gestures can offer this level of interaction, reliance on them removes almost all possibilities for increasing the mastery of users. It is just terrible to watch users performing the same clumsy gestures over and over again for doing things repeatedly.
✸ Only symbol based navigation like search makes it possible for users to handle very large amounts of data. Without such ordering systems and meaningful ways of interaction with them, users' options are limited to what fits onto the screen and into visual memory. Unable to define exactly what they mean on pure touch devices, users become dependent on algorithms guessing what they actually want to do or need to laboriously switch contexts for general procedures that would be considered trivial with richer input possibilities. This created an inflated market of "apps".
✸ An always present hardware keyboard allows for modeless meta commands, like copy/paste, select, undo, help, quit etc
Miranda: I believe that keyboards are an excellent piece of hardware, but I do not think that the use of a keyboard is a fundamental right for a user.
I think that Despen makes some good points, but that they are conflating the familiarity of developers and users when working with an input device with the inherent usefulness of an input device.
Perhaps a more accurate way to describe this would be "the right to manipulate a system using tools with functionality rivaling the tools used by the system's developers". At the moment, that exclusively means "keyboards", but that might not be the case in the future. :)