Apple might be working on a dynamic keyboard with OLEDs behind each movable key. Apple's patent application for this OLED keyboard hid in the background since March of last year, and the exciting thing is it looks a whole lot like Art Lebedev's as-yet-unreleased Optimus keyboard. While this kind of flexibility is right in line with Apple's latest keyboard exploits, we're wondering how the company will be able to make the price anywhere near reasonable, since Lebedev has continuously tried to get us used to the idea of spending over a thousand dollars on such a keyboard. Apple could pull off a cheap OLED keyboard, and here's how:
Lebedev's manufacturing cost is said to be astromical for each keyboard, so maybe Apple could bring that price down with economies of scale. Heck, Robert Krakoff, CEO of peripheral company Razer, told us he thinks his company could do the same thing and sell it for under $500, so it can't be impossible.
One important advantage Apple has is that it has control of the operating system software, and according to the patent application, the software applications would talk to circuitry inside each key that could control what was displayed on its OLED. Here's the language used in the application, whose drawings are dated 1/3/08:
"Methods and apparatus, including computer program products, implementing and using techniques for providing a computer peripheral including one or more keys. Each key has several light emitting diodes disposed on a face of the key. Each of the light emitting diodes can switch on or off in response to a data signal received from an application specific integrated circuit dedicated to the key. A corresponding key and manufacturing method, as well as a computer system including one or more such keys are also described."
Unless Jobs is somehow in cahoots with Lebedev, there might be "see you in court" missives flying around, right about now. [Hrmf]