Optimus Maximus: Keyboardus Disappearibus

Paul Lilly

Remember when Duke Nukem Forever was going to revolutionize the PC gaming landscape? After ten years in the making, we’re chanting Viva la Patience instead. Or how about WinFS, the highly anticipated successor to Microsoft’s NTFS file system that ended up a no-show in Vista? That one still has a chance, but I’ve given up waiting for OCZ’s Cryo-Z, an affordable phase change cooling unit for the masses. And speaking of affordable, whatever happened to the $100 PC? Bueller, Bueller, Bueller…

There’s a term for these promised technologies and products that never see the light of day, and it’s called Vaporware. Longtime stalwarts of Maximum PC’s forum dating back to the Delphi/Commport era might recall a user by the name of Logik! He used to say “It’s all hype until it ships,” and I can’t help but think of him when I read a news blip about Art. Lebedev Studio’s Optimus 103 (recently renamed Optimus Maximus). Now going on two years since I first read about it, this concept keyboard sporting programmable OLED displays on each key still holds widespread appeal. Imagine playing Supreme Commander or your RTS of choice with each button showing off a snazzy picture of its function, and then switching profiles to your productivity suite when it comes time to work.

A picture's worth a thousand words, but if this sexy gem ever sees the light of day, it'll command $1,500!

Sounds groovy, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s starting to smell like vapor. To this day, no one has ever seen a prototype, or at least no one in the media has ever laid eyes on one. Instead, we’ve been shown 3D rendered images that are so well drawn, many people believed them to be actual photos when originally posted. But they’re not, and the question remains, is there or will there ever be a real deal?

Manning a booth this year at CeBIT, Artemy Lebedev and company had the perfect opportunity to show off a prototype and squelch any doubters. Instead, they may have created some among the remaining hopeful. Artemy keeps a blog on the Optimus project , and when queried as to why the no show, he responded that “we don’t show the prototype on the CeBIT because no prototype can compare in beauty with the product that will be shipped this year.” That ranks right up there with the check is in the mail . He also posts that their OLED manufacturer is undergoing some major financial woes, setting the stage for yet another delay. The setup sounds all too familiar, but if they do eventually come through, it’ll be worth the wait, just like it was when people finally got their hands on a Go-L computer. Oh wait…

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