Microsoft unveils Aotearoa keyboard in new Windows 11

By Will Trafford

Microsoft is embracing Te Reo Māori and the name Aotearoa in the new version of the Windows operating system.

Windows 11 features an Aotearoa keyboard, which boosts macron availability for vowels as default.

By pressing and holding the tilde key ‘~’ (top left corner of the keyboard), before entering a vowel, the macron will be seamlessly added to the letter.

The functionality of using the tilde key for macrons existed before Windows 11 but in the past it was clumsy.

"Users either had to switch between the Māori and New Zealand English keyboards, or copy and paste a vowel with a macron from another document or online," a Microsoft representative told Te Ao Māori News.

The company says the new keyboard is a labour of love by Microsoft kaimahi Dan Walker (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Maniapoto, Tūhourangi, Ngāti Kahungunu) and linguistics professional Ellie Greenly.

"Both have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to improve the diversity of Aotearoa’s tech sector and bring free te reo Māori interfaces to the technology Kiwis use every day.

Vanessa Sorenson of Microsoft NZ says the keyboard is part of a broader focus on Te Ao Māori at the company.

“It represents the latest milestone in the work we’ve been doing alongside cultural and language advisors for the past 15 years to support te reo Māori.”

“It’s about encouraging Kiwis to learn and engage with each other in the language every day. The Aotearoa keyboard will enable millions of Windows users around Aotearoa and the world to write more easily in te reo Māori, removing the barriers people currently face to expressing themselves in our indigenous language. That’s huge.” she said.

In 2019 Microsoft worked with indigenous software company Piki Studios to create a Te Ao Māori learning environment called Ngā Motu in its sandbox video game Minecraft.

Microsoft says the game, complete with Pā, Waka Hourua and even Moa and Kiwi, is used by learning institutions across the motu.

Windows 11 was launched yesterday as a free upgrade for all existing Windows 10 users.