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Art Lebedev Studio, a design studio from Russia who develops innovative keyboards with keys that contain displays, has announced the price as well as production schedule of its Optimus Maximus keyboard, the world’s first keyboard with keys that feature OLED screens.

Optimus Maximus is a full-sized 113-keys keyboard with colour OLED screens located inside each key. The screens are 10.1mm? large and have 48x48 pixels resolution, according to its developers. Specially designed software will be able to change images on the colour screens depending on the program running.

Art Lebedev will start accepting pre-orders on its Optimus keyboard on the 20th of May. The design studio hopes to obtain first fully functional engineering sample of the keyboard in late June and to be in position to ship the first batch, or 200 pieces, of Optimus Maximus starting 31st of November. The company promises that in December, 2007 and January, 2008 it will ship another 200 and 400 units, respectively.


Art Lebedev Optimus Maximus. Click to enlarge

Even though initially Art Lebedev Studio claimed that its Optimus keyboard would cost like a “fine” mobile phone, the price for the Optimus Maximus keyboard with finalized specs is $1564, a price-point that by far exceeds retail prices of typical mobile phones and is even higher compared to Nokia’s premium class Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition, which costs ?1000 ($1360).

Due to problems with development, earlier Art Lebedev Studio even said it would release Optimus-103 keyboard with black and white screens in mid-2007 and that it would cost $1200 per unit for early adopters. However, the move faced loads of criticism among observers and bloggers, who claimed that it was unacceptable to get a keyboard with black and white keys at so high price tag.

In addition to the seemed-to-be cancelled black and white Optimus-103 with its exceptionally high price-tag, Art Lebedev has received critics over the form of the Optimus Maximus keys. Typically, keys on the keyboards feature a kind of a ramp to allow users to point exactly in the middle of the button and do not touch the keys nearby. Additionally, keys usually feature trapezium-like form, whereas Art Lebedev’s Optmius keys featured cube-like form, according to pictures released by the company.

Currently Art Lebedev is selling the Optimus mini three keypad with coloured keys for $160/?128 per unit.

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