While the Art Lebedev studios are struggling to get the Optimus Maximus OLED-enabled keyboard up and running, some other hardware manufacturers and designers are trying to achieve their own version, hopefully cheaper and more appealing. United Keys has been displaying its multiple versions of the Display Keys product since early 2005.
Design company United Keys and the original equipment manufacturer Foxconn teamed up in an attempt of designing their own version of a gaming keyboard to feature the glittering and expensive OLED-based keycaps. This is intended to be a "new breed of gaming keyboards", that mixes the quality of its components with the eye-candy miniature displays. The only thing is that, in order to keep the keyboard under the competition's $1564 price tag, the company could afford to implement only 12 OLED screens under the multimedia keys. These small panels are controlled by software, just like the so-expensive Optimus Maximus.
It's true that this compromise will make it cost less, but, at the same time, the keyboard will be anything but different from a stripped-down version of the Optimus Maximus. The only thing that would save the OLED-based keyboard from being labeled as a stripped-down clone of the Maximus would be the high-quality components that are required for building a gaming keyboard. The device is slated for mass availability in summer, but the retailing price has not been disclosed yet.
This may be the next trend in the keyboard industry, and a search through the patent fillings will reveal all the OLED keyboard manufacturers. After all, what more can be added to an ergonomic, wireless gaming keyboard with multimedia keys and a small display above the numeric pad on its right side?
It seems like United Keys holds two patents on the OLED-keys technology and claims that Optimus Maximus' alleged patents are inexistent. However, there are more manufacturers to have patented their technology, such as Elkin Acevedo and, more recently, Apple.