Sure, it may sound crazy to stick a Windows PC into the chassis of a big, blue keyboard. But trust me, the people at Open Labs are even crazier than you think. This isn’t a keyboard you’ll check email on. It’s a keyboard you’ll watch movies on. Here’s my hands-on report (or, as I like to say here at CDM, grubby, greasy fingers-on report . . .)

The MiKo is a Windows PC built into a big, blue keyboard that doubles as a:

  • Powerful computer: Think desktop meets music keyboard rather than laptop. AMD Athlon 64-bit single standard, dual core optional. And there’s a hard drive bay and four PCI slots free.
  • Controllable computer: QWERTY keyboard? Check. 15″ Color Touchscreen? Check. (I tried it, and it’s very usable with most soft synth interfaces.)
  • Audio recorder: There’s in fact a PreSonus FireBox crammed in there, for high-res audio input and output. (I’ve heard very positive things about this interface, by the way.) The MiKo should also run very quietly, though this was hard to judge over the din of the NAMM floor.
  • Video powerhouse: Video output from VGA connection drives 2048 x 1536, greater than HD resolution. You can hook up a second display, VJ (yes, you might want the high-res with live 3D), or just watch movies.
  • Control surface: The Penny & Giles cross-fader feels nice, as do the knobs.
  • Home entertainment center with remote:Here’s where things get a little . . . different. The MiKo is preconfigured with media browsing and playback features, 7.1 surround, and even a Firefly media remote control for controlling movies and media. You know, it’s a little like the Korg OASYS meets the Windows Media Center. I’m sure this will become a really competitiv– okay, probably you’ll only see this from Open Labs.

  • So, got all that? It’s a computer – control surface – keyboard – DJ / VJ workstation – home entertainment studio, after all.

    And it’s all in a case that’s sparkling bumper car blue. The price is great: intro US$1999. (Keeping in mind this features a touchscreen, control surface, keyboard, software bundle, audio interface, and desktop-class machine.) The bad news is the weight and bulk: 35 pounds means us subway musicians will probably stick to a laptop and keyboard. But Open Labs does promise it’ll fit in the back of a Honda (part of the reason for making the instrument), and I can say the package is very cool in person. You wouldn’t turn one away if it showed up in your living room.

    I’m not saying rationally I should want one. Only that I irrationally do want one. Wave of the future or not, Open Labs has paid attention to a lot of the details, and built an instrument everyone at the show was drooling over. (I surveyed both vendors and showgoers, just to make sure I wasn’t insane, and the whole thing wasn’t a mirage.)

    Sadly, Open Labs isn’t holding a keyboard-burning party this year I can rescue a unit from. Just wait until summer NAMM hits Austin, Texas, their hometown. I’m sure I’ll wind up in jail with these guys at that party. Stay tuned.