Optimus OLED keyboard to be priced at $1200

Posted by Mark Raby and Wolfgang Gruener

Moscow (Russia) - And you thought the Playstation 3 was expensive: Design studio Art Lebedev announced that it will sell its Optimus computer keyboard for $1200 a piece in March of next year.

Earlier this week, Art Lebedev revealed that the much hyped keyboard will not, as previously announced, include keys with color OLED surfaces, but come with b/w OLEDs instead. Also the studio scrapped the idea of shortcut keys in favor of a more traditional keypad layout. Those changes weren't received lightly from people who are apparently already impatiently waiting for the device to finally arrive.

First reports about the keyboard started appearing in early 2005. At that time Art Lebedev expected a commercial availability of the device for "sometime in 2006", but now it appears that the general availability will be delayed until late 2007. The studio said it will begin taking pre-orders of the keyboard on December 12 for $1200 a piece. There will be a limited supply of 103 keyboards that is not expected to ship until "about May 2007." Optimus keyboards for less than $1000 are promised to ship around September 2007.

The Optimus-103 keyboard lets users define and customize every key. Each one has an independent OLED display to show the current function of the key. It can be re-organized to optimize the keyboard layout for games, video editing, or any other application that requires the use of special keys or macros. A programming kit will be offered as open source SDK, Art Lebedev said.

Despite its b/w keys, the Optimus keyboard still appears to be an extraordinary device. The price is substantially higher than what was expected: Earlier this year, Lebedev wrote that the keyboard should cost less than a "good mobile phone". Now it appears that it will cost at least twice what we pay for a high-end phone. The design studio will have invested a lot of time into the development of the keyboard until its introduction, but the profit margin could be substantial: OLEDs for such keys are estimated to cost about $0.50 in large quantities at this time, which would indicate that the production cost of the device will be less than $100.

Given the continued delays, it will be interesting to see how many U.S. users will trust the design studio that the keyboard will be available around May and send $1200 over to Russia. As of now, it is unclear whether this amount has to be paid in full at the time of pre-order.