Before we bring the hate upon the Optimus keyboard, there is a bit of news that came about today. On December 12 Art.Lebedev will be accepting 103 pre-orders for the Optimus keyboard. The keyboards will ship "about May 2007" and will have a price tag of... (are you ready for this?) ... $1,200. Yes. Twelve hundred fucking dollars—pardon my French. It may be a joke by Artemy Lebedev, but regardless of the $1,200 price tag or not, the Optimus keyboard is heading in a downward spiral.
The announcements today are simply the cherry on top of the sundae why the Optimus keyboard has already failed six months before anyone actually has it. But the price isn't the only reason...
It was way back in mid 2005 when the initial prototype renderings were released. This was when I was just a mere intern, rubbing the feet of our higher ups at the time. We received roughly four million e-mails about this keyboard. People were pretty impressed, hell I was a bit star-struck myself. A keyboard with customizable LEDs keys? Wowz0r Batman!
The initial renderings were amazing and too good to be true, I guess. The keyboard itself was beautiful, not to mention the individual color OLED screens that accompanied every key that are fully customizable. The Art.Lebedev guys had a lot on their plate producing an actual keyboard like this.
Little did they know that this task would be a hard one to pull off. A year and a half later we finally understand the Optimus, which is a keyboard with black & white LCD screens that will likely be no better than the quality of the handheld solitaire game that your grandma is obsessed with. Don't believe me? Look.
We like to consider ourselves rumorhounds over at the Gizmodo. We will jump on the slightest rumor and play it hard and long. So Art.Lebedev played us pretty hard by having new rumors surface almost on a weekly basis. It wasn't just us though, all of the major gadget/peripheral sites ate the Optimus up. The prototype rendering were beautiful, how could we not be obsessed? And everytime we received a new rumor, it brought the Optimus keyboard and all of the hype that surrounded it back to our minds. And by the time this keyboard actually gets in the hands of consumers it will have been almost three years.
The Mini-Three and "Upravlator"
The Mini-Three made its debut in the latter part of the summer. We got our hands on one and even made a video of the Mini-Three emulating a slot machine. The Mini-Three was promising because it looked nice: pretty color LCD buttons and fully customization. It gave the Optimus keyboard a bit of hope. "Will the Optimus Keyboard be like a Mini-Three, but with a 100 more buttons?" Oh boy we were excited!
That excitement quickly died after the announcement of the Optimus keyboard only being available in black and white. Boo! Bah-humbug!
And the Upravlator—it's just a Mini-Three with more keys and probably carries a price tag double or triple what the Mini-Three is ($160). Big whoop.
I've mentioned it before, I'll mention it again. $1,200 for a keyboard is just ridiculous. Period.
They also claim that the Optimus will have a sub-$1000 price tag in September when more pre-orders are taken, but I have my doubts. Remember a couple weeks ago when the Art.Lebedev folks told Slashdot that the Optimus will have a price tag "less than a good mobile phone"? I guess I've never been to Russia, but are good mobile phones over there really that expensive?
I'm sorry to say it, but this project is doomed and I would honestly recommend being cautious before pre-ordering. $1,200 is a lot of money to put into the hands of people working on a project like this. They may have delivered (finally) with the Mini-Three, but who is to say they won't take the $156,000 total from the first 103 pre-orders and disappear off the map? Given that the $1,200 price tag sticks.
Sorry, Art.Lebedev. This thing isn't going to work out, the idea was stellar to begin with, but the execution failed miserably. Tack on a price tag that is ridiculous to say the least and chalk this up as a failed experiment and a waste of a couple years.
Bravo to whomever did the initial renderings—those were beautiful.