Optimus, wherefore art thou?

It’s a roller-coaster world, the crazy keyboard business.  Who would’ve thought it could be so topsy-turvy; thank sweet Nancy Reagan for Art Lebedev and his Optimus project, as close to a soap opera in tech-land as you can get.  It turns out that, after a modicum of positive press at the news that they’d finally decided on an OLED supplier, key layout and rough delivery timetable, now their supplier “has some serious financial troubles” and they’re back to searching the back streets and alleyways for an alternative.

Still, you get nowhere in this world without being gung-ho, and so they’re carrying on making the keyboard chassis while a crack team of OLED-scouts trawls for fresh supplies.  Estimated delivery has, inevitably, fallen to December, though I wouldn’t organise your life around that if I were you.

Bad News and Good News [Optimus Project]

Optimus gets new name, new price, same old delays – Updated with more pics

Oh, for crap’s sake!  Optimus, you disappoint me.  After promising – yes, promising – to have a working OLED keyboard prototype at CeBIT, Optimus are practising their back-peddling and saying that it’s not ready yet.  What they have been able to bring along is a new price – up from $1,200 to $1,490 – and news of how exactly they’re going to make those keys replaceable.  Apparently rather than the OLED display moving, it’s the transparent key-cap on top of it that somehow slides around; that’s how they’ll be able to sell you replacements for a mere $10 each.

They’ve changed the name, too, and have obviously been reading The Big Book of Distract the Consumer; it’ll no longer be called the 103, but instead the Optimus Maximus.  Seems inevitable that such a title will only draw attention to the maximus-pricimus.

Edit: More official photos after the cut… including the return of the left-side key panel!


Optimus… is that a real picture, for once?

Okay, so it’s the second Optimus post of the day, but the news about the infamous OLED keyboard dribbles out like milk through an old man’s beard.  Latest is what would appear to be a photo of the beast itself – unless Art Lebedev’s boys have got a whole lot better at their Photoshop rendering – complete with bevelled keys.  These are apparently necessary since each 2x2cm key nestles up pretty close to its neighbours, so the notching gives back that all-important 4mm distance between keytops.


Optimus will bring some sort of prototype to CeBIT

Optimus are re-fuelling the hype machine in the run-up to CeBIT, promising to not only be there but bring a preview of the 103 OLED keyboard.  Now we’ve been stung before with juicy details that in turn lead to just more waiting, and I’m pleased to say that people are being a little more cynical than they were before; however, if the company can show a completed, working model as shown in this render, well, they’ll surely have people waving cheques at them again.

Incidentally, though it doesn’t seem like much the above picture previews the new-size enter key, and shows how Optimus are keeping to a small set of standardised shapes in order to keep moulding costs down.


More Optimus 103 details: keys to be swappable

Perhaps over-egging the proverbial hype pudding, those masters of self-promotion over at Art Lebedev have declared “the most exciting news this year”: that the 103 Keyboard will have user-changeable keys.  Perhaps to counter those critics who have suggested a full array of tiny colour OLED screens will push the final price-tag somewhere in the region of the stratosphere, this will enable the company to hit different (still likely high) price points depending on configuration.


Optimus collaborate, make Mini-Three earn its keep

One of the initial boasts of Optimus was that their OLED key technology would not only be used in standalone keyboards but integrated into other company’s technology.  So far, delays in the full-sized ‘board and getting the second production run of the Mini-Three going has obviously been monopolising their time, but they’ve still had a chance to collaborate with Epiphan Systems.


Epiphan specialise in video signal processing, having products with capture, recording, broadcasting and printing functionality.  They’ve been reselling the Mini-Three for a while now, but this is the first time that the micro-keyboard has been integrated into one of their own units.  So far, the only detail missing is what exactly this black box does, beside display information on the Optimus screens.  I’m sure they’ll eventually update their website and tell us.

Incidentally, Optimus are also reporting that they’ve placed a manufacturing order for the OLED keys to be used in the 103 keyboard, and that means it will definitely be released this year.  Excellent news!

OM3 Usage [Optimus Project Blog]

Optimus Mini 3 becomes Mini 2×3

Tired of waiting for the Optimus 103 keyboard?  Got huge fingers, each the size of a German bratwurst sausage?  Then you might be interested to know that the company’s “look, we can make OLED keys!” product, the Optimus Mini 3, will soon support two of the units being plugged into the same computer.  Right, so that’s six keys, enough at least for Q, W, E, R, T and Y. 

The Mini 3 costs around $159.96, so that’s almost $320 for half the top line of our DIY keyboard.  Not wishing to be rude or anything, but stop faffing around and make me a full-sized, full-colour keyboard!

I feel better for that.

OM3 stuff [Optimus Project Blog]

Optimus 103 to cost $1,200 – geeks squeal WTF?!

Oh dear.  Oh dear oh dear.  Do I hear the noise of thousands of geek wallets snapping shut?  Yes, friends and twinkly loved-ones, Optimus have announced (ahead of schedule, mind) pre-order prices for their 103 screen-key keyboard.  After the news that the keys will not, at least at first, be colour, now comes the jaw-dropping revelation that it’ll cost $1,200 come December 12th.  The pre-ordered keyboards, limited in number to 103, will be delivered May 2007; they then hope to have a second pre-order phase at the $1000 mark, for delivery in September 2007.

Considering this was introduced as coming in at “similar to the price of a high-end cellphone”, this is a disappointment.  Is anybody considering putting in an order?  And just what “greater price” will the colour screen keyboard command?

More! More! [Optimus Project Blog]

Optimus 103 suffers another set-back – keys to be monochrome

First it lost ten keys, now it loses colour.  Optimus have announced that their 103 keyboard, due to be opened up for pre-order (and have pricing revealed) on December 12th, will ship at first with monochrome keys rather than the full-colour mini-displays so far shown in all the renderings and promotional pictures.  The wholescale “count me out!” wailing has begun in force over on their LiveJournal blog, where they broke the news that a colour version will only be released “later at a greater price”.

I’m throwing open the judgement on this one – who still wants a 103?  While Optimus are probably right in that 95% of keyboard tasks only require black & white, personally the colour was an integral part of the “coolness” of the concept.

Optimus 103 Displays [Optimus Project]

Optimus 103 Keyboard pre-orders taken soon

Perhaps I’m needlessly buying into the hype, but I really do want to try out Optimus’ 103 keyboard.  Anyway, it now has a pre-order date – 12th December 2006 – although no price or delivery date.  Not wishing to sound pessimistic, but I get the feeling that while the trickle-feed has worked okay so far, if more solid information isn’t forthcoming soon there’s going to be a lot of people who’ll just give up on the whole concept. Which is never good.


Optimus 103 Keyboard details emerge

Ah Optimus – with one hand you give us curious and semi-useful peripherals like the Upravalator, with the other you dole out interesting snippets of news about your so-far pretty ephemeral “every key’s a screen” keyboard the 103.  Now we know that not only have you got a tiny LCD key prototype made, but that the 103 will appear to whatever computer it’s plugged into as a mass-storage device.  That means it shows up as a drive volume in Explorer, needs no drivers and, best of all, can store all of the custom layouts you slavishly create on-board.  Got two PCs you want to use it with?  No problem, the layouts come with it.


Against the best efforts of my cynical nature I’m getting pretty stoked about the 103.  It seems like the designers and engineers are actually putting some decent thought into it, which is always promising.

Optimus Project [LiveJournal]

Optimus Upravlator finally breaks cover – Updated!

[Edit: It’s been officially announced today: product page. Each key has five possible controls; top, bottom, left, right and centre-on push]

Oh to have access to the innards of Engadget’s inbox – in the gadget world it must be the equivalent of Area 51, packed to the gizzards with future tech tied up with so many embargoes you’d need a degree in schedulology to keep track of them all.  But they feed us a few every so often, hence this photo of Optimus’ Upravlator in all its glory:


The top-left key changes context for all the other buttons; price and release date are still, unsurprisingly, tbc.

Here comes the Upravlator! [Engadget]

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