As with 8Pen and Flit, we’ve seen more than a few unconventional mobile keyboards. The latest oddball effort, however, could come from Microsoft.

Windows Phone gadget blog WMPowerUser has unearthed a leaked screenshot of a new keyboard, which was taken from a Microsoft Research presentation.

Unlike most keyboards, Microsoft’s features an arched layout, which is designed to be used with single thumb. As with T9 predictive text devices, letters on the Microsoft keyboard are clustered together in trios, though the keyboard is arranged like a normal QWERTY keyboard.

While the software is shown running on an HTC Trophy, that doesn’t automatically mean Windows Phone users will be seeing the new functionality anytime soon, if ever. Microsoft Research specializes at working on a lot of theoretical projects, and not all of them are released.

The earliest Microsoft could introduce the new keyboard is with Windows Phone 8, though common sense would suggest that the company would have already announced the new software if that was the plan.

Still, it’s heartening to see that Microsoft is trying its hand at improving a technology that never seems to be good enough. As the countless number of Android keyboard alternatives prove, mobile typing is something that has yet to be perfected. Maybe Microsoft will push things to the next level.

MobileBeat 2012Design is determining the winners in everything mobile. The most successful players are focusing on one thing: How to make products, services, and devices as compelling and delightful as possible – visually, and experientially. MobileBeat 2012, July 10-11 in San Francisco , is assembling the most elite minds to debate how UI/UX is transforming every aspect of the mobile economy, and where the opportunities lie. Register here.