Editorial: Optimus Minimus - an alternative view
July 20, 2005
the past few days, there has been a lot of interest in a new hardware
item—the Optimus OLED keyboard. It is a prototype by a very
creative design firm in Russia—the Art.
Lebedev Studio which was founded in 1995. Now, before everyone gets
all upset because they think I am knocking this particular bit of
hardware, or the company in general, please know that I am not
singling them out (in fact, I burned a few hours at their site and
really enjoyed a lot of their work). I suspect that they did a design
study and prototype and posted it in their portfolio where it was
found by some sharp-eyed surfer and plastered all over the net.
are going to be yelling “vaporware”; or worse yet—think I am
yelling “vaporware”! I am not saying that in the least—the
company didn't even create this buzz. In fact, they are to be
commended as a stand up company for stating clearly where the Optimus
is as a potential product on the “path” to production.
I go any further with this editorial, let me be candid by saying that
when I first saw the Optimus, I was just as excited as you were.
“WOW, that is beyond cool” I thought, and even posted a link on
our front page and in our forums. My friend and fellow Editor, Eric
Hampton, who is often the voice of reason around here, had this to
say in the forum thread:
“I would like to point out that
this company consists of designers, not engineers. Judging from the
other works in their portfolio, they are very creative and
technically able—but still designers. What you are seeing is
probably no more than a Digital 3D model at this time. That’s
nothing new though as most all products are conceptualized before
they are released. However, I question just how challenging is it
going to be to implement the engineering phase? They say on their
site that it’s in its initial stage of production, and they hope it
will be released in 2006. Do not misunderstand me, these designers
are very good at what they do, and I applaud their ingenuity as it is
applied to objects we use everyday. But, I’m a bit skeptical that
the finished product, if it arrives, will be exactly as they
envisioned. I just don’t feel this keyboard is anything
special, and definitely not worth a price tag over $50."
"One of my main concerns is ‘what’s
the point?’—and 'what will that point cost?' They say it will cost
less than a good mobile phone. That can be pretty steep for a
keyboard. And sorry, but most gamers don’t look at their
keyboard. If you are, you probably get killed—a lot. Why spend
$150-$250 on a keyboard that you’re just going to hammer on while
concentrating on the monitor to get that one last frag? You say it’s
cool – well, so are 3D glasses, but you don’t see everyone
jumping on that bandwagon. I have seen various forum threads
and other sites tout this as something that all gamers will want to
have, but I see absolutely no reason to have the keys display symbols
of stuff for each application. Games clearly wouldn’t benefit from
this feature at all."
"What about other applications?
Well, maybe—but highly unlikely. I know not everyone can type and
some people still hunt and peck. For them this may be a viable
solution, but there is nothing that can beat the ability to type
without looking at your keyboard. Some say this may help with hot
keys and short-cuts in their favorite applications, but looking at
the keyboard to hunt for it defeats the entire purpose of having a
hot key or short cut! I do not see any justification for having the
keys change or be animated beyond the cool factor, and that can only
carry it as far as people are willing to pay."
"By now you can tell I am very
skeptical about this keyboard. The ideas which have been
conceptualized by the design team are very refreshing. However, I
find that there is no use for the OLED keys on the keyboard at all.
So—the keys can change, be animated and have colors—for a hefty
price tag. I’m sure someone will point out that sports cars are
the same way, and you’re right. There’s no truly good reason to
have one besides the cool factor. I’m not saying the keyboard will
totally flop if it comes out, but I don’t think it will be taking
over the keyboard market by putting one in every household anytime
soon. Particularly without a price tag that can match the current
generation. Bottom line: don’t get caught up in all the hype
before you actually think through the use/non-use of this keyboard.
Until these hit the market and I have one in my hands to review, I
will remain skeptical."
then posted that he was “Peeing on our Parade”. But as I
considered his points I had to admit he was right. When he mentioned
how caught up everyone was in the buzz surrounding this keyboard, I
came to the following conclusions:
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