Monday, January 28, 2008

More on United Keys

The folks over at the opimus_project blog (by the people making the Optimus-keyboards) has posted a really interesting article about earlier display keyboards, and their respective patents. Seems like it had been going on for quite a while before Valdi got his "brilliant" and "unique" idea...
Anyway, they also noticed and link to my latest post with a really interesting discovery; the keyboard visualized over at United Keys site is only a photoshop work of a Microsoft keyboard.

They couldn't even come up with an original idea! Just use an existing product and say that it's yours, just like with the Celebrity.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

United Keys & Valdi's imaginary keyboard

After all the media attention generated from Art Lebedev's OLED-keyboard Opimus Maximus, the company United Keys decided that it was a new push for their alternative display-keyboard. They have announced manufacturing plans for a gaming-keyboard that will be available this summer. What most people don’t know is that United Keys was started by the now infamous Valdi Ivancic of the Medison Celebrity-fame, among others. I have been aware of this since the start of the whole Medison Celebrity-mess, but never paid any attention towards this since it seemed to be a dead project. But now when the company is alive again, I decided to dig a bit deeper and publish my findings! Read on, it will be worth it, I promise ;)


The story goes that Valdi got this great idea back in 1998 about this keyboard with programmable screens on each key, called the iBoard. He filed a patent application in Sweden and created the company Intelligentia International AB to realize the whole thing. The idea was to license the technology to other companies that would manufacture the keyboards and other devices with display keys. Time went on, and Valdi travelled to USA and started the company Swedish Keys to manage the patents there. Several patent applications were made both in the US and other parts of the world. Later he helped to start the company United Keys in 2004, which would continue where Intelligentia and Swedish Keys left off. The company tried to license its technology for several years, but didn’t have any luck until this year.

The true story

Valdi did indeed file a patent application about the keyboard back in the end of the 90’ies. However, the application fee was never paid, so the Swedish patent office closed the application in 2001. I have written about Intelligentia International AB before when investigating Valdi’s past, and came up with this: The Company winded up without any economical assets. The last activity in the company seems to have been in 2001 or 2002 sometime, when they got really hard criticism from the authorized accountant. This was because that Valdi couldn't provide any documentation on income and expenses, and that taxes and fees hadn’t been paid in the right time, or at all. There were even missing money in the company. The accountant even concluded that the company was obligated to do a forced liquidation because of several failed equity issuances.

What about United keys?

United Keys also seems like a bit of a shady company. Back in September 2005 they started to take preorders for the keyboard “250PRO”. The keyboard would have monochrome LCD-displays on the function-keys. The price was announced to be $299.99 when delivered in January 2006, but United Keys offered a “friends and family” discount that would lower the price to $199.99 until the end of 2005. As you might expect (It involves Valdi, right?), no keyboards were ever delivered. Instead, they pushed the release almost month for month, and accordingly extended the timeframe for the discount. During this timeframe, Valdi said in several interviews and postings that the keyboard actually was available for purchase and delivery. This went on until the start of 2007 when all information about the 250PRO was discarded, and instead they started to take preorders with the following text:

“Soon we'll make available a display key PC keyboard, with the 12 function keys enabled. This is a real production unit built by a top keyboard manufacturer. But it will also be our first ("pilot") run. As such, it will probably need software improvement (which is where you come in!). If you are technically strong, and a true "first adopter" by nature, we'd like you to bang around on it — and then provide feedback. It'll be priced accordingly, reflecting a huge discount vs. future products. Let us know your interest by filling out the form below.”

This information is still available on their website, but the wording has changed a tiny bit. Now it will have 9 keys with displays instead of 12, and will be manufactured by Foxconn instead of a "top keyboard manufacturer".

What about the patents?

As I wrote above, the original Swedish patent application was never granted. An application has been made in Canada, but a patent has never been issued due to that United Keys never has returned a request for examination. There is however a couple of patents approved in the US from United Keys and Valdi, but as most people know, it’s comparatively easy to get a patent approved in US (as in this very similar case), and that it necessarily won’t hold up in court if objected. The approved patents are also quite general, just claiming the idea of programmable display keys on any type of device. What’s more, there is already older approved patents for these types of keyboards, which would make the newer patents invalid.

Is there more to it?

Except for the patents, I can’t find any current links between Valdi and United Keys, maybe they are going serious? Trough my research, I have found more and more of Valdi’s apparent lies about his and the companies histories, so I wouldn’t count on it. So let’s end this article with a quote from Valdi himself in an interview about the keyboard and patents, dated around last summer, the same time he announced the Medison Celebrity:

"Art Lebedev has scammed about two million Swedish crowns from gullible people who think that they will get a fantastic keyboard for Christmas. [...] They think that they can get away with just good marketing and pretty pictures of a product that they don't have."

Maybe Valdi should apply the same logic to his own products and ideas?

Friday, January 4, 2008

"Medison Celebrity even more delayed" (Updated)

About 300 days after the announcement of the US$150 computer Medison Celebrity, and about 130 days after the last promised delivery date, Medison drops a bomb: The delivery of the computer is further delayed!
I'm sooo chocked!
The "news" comes from Computer Sweden, who has spoken with Medison's Nordic Manager Robert Klanjac. In the article he states that "they are making progress" and that they still have "logistical problems". He can't say anything more, not a new date or anything, but he promises that everyone who has ordered will receive their computer.
On the usual question about if they are scammers, he gives the usual answer that 2Checkout warrants that Medison won't get any money until they make the actual deliveries. But 2Checkout can't do anything about stupid and impossible business plans and notorious liars, can they?

Oh, and happy new year and welcome to another age of the Medison Circus!


The original article has now been updated with an quote from 2Checkouts Geno Arce who says that they haven't head anything from Medison at all for over three months now. He states that they must be able to trust their partners, and that any further partnership with Medison will be discussed with the company's board of directors.