Wednesday, 1 February 2006

Anti Climax

Being interested in the Optimus keyboard, I subscribed to Art. Lebedev's mailing list so that I would be informed of when and how this product is available on the market. For the past few weeks, the home page of the site had a message hinting at the fact that news would be made public on February 1st. We are now on February 1st and I got the following in my mailbox:

Ladies and gentlemen,

A while ago you signed up for newsletters about the Optimus keyboard. I'm delighted to inform you that we are rolling out the Optimus mini three keyboard.

Details with images are available at

It's a three-key keyboard with big color OLED screens. The price of the keyboard is $100 until April 2, 2006. We are looking forward to receiving a fresh lot of the keyboards ready for shipment on May 15. We are planning to give you the opportunity to pre-order the keyboard at our online store this week.

P. S. As regards the full-fledged Optimus keyboard, we still expect to obtain its samples by the end of this year. Production is slated for next year. But before that, we are planning to make another model, of which you will be immediately notified.

My first reaction when reading this email was one of disappointment. I can understand that Art. Lebedev want to start with something small to test drive the technology but a 3-button extension keyboard is one of the most useless peripherals I can think of. Even the examples on the web site don't convince me that there would be any good reason for me to buy one, especially at $100 a shot!

But more important for me than what the email says about the Optimus Three Mini, as they call it, is what they say, or don't say, about the full-fledged Optimus.

First, what they say: they should have the first working prototypes by the end of the year and the first production models early next year. This means we'll have to wait until 2007 to get our hands on one of those. Disappointing as that may be, with all the hype and interest there has been around this keyboard, Art. Lebedev might very well discover that, by this time next year, someone else will have come out with something similar before them. Big guys like Microsoft or Logitech could surely find the resources they need to produce an OLED based keyboard before Art. Lebedev does, should they wish to do so.

Then, what they don't say: the Optimus Three Mini will retail at $100 until April. From the wording of the email, I suspect this price is an introductory price and will go up after that. $100 would be expensive for a full-fledged keyboard, let alone a 3-button one. The obvious question in light of this is: how much will the full-fledged Optimus keyboard cost? $500? $1000? Probably significantly more than most people can afford or are willing to pay for a keyboard. At the end of the day, however cool or revolutionary it will be, this is a keyboard we're talking about, and not even a wireless or ergonomic one at that.

Let's wait and see but, for now, I am slightly disappointed.

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