Programmable keyboard cost vs non-programmable

Other than mass production considerations, is creating a programmable keyboard necessarily costlier than a non-programmable one? Or in other words, if one were to design an ergonomic keyboard aiming to be more accessible financially to a larger section of computer users, could one save costs by omitting programmability?

That leads me to wonder how one would make a non-programmable keyboard! :thinking: (Obviously I don’t know much about hardware hacking!)

I asked J&K about this a while ago, and to paraphrase what I was told, it doesn’t take up much of an expensive keyboard’s costs proportionally. It would take a much bigger share of a cheaper keyboard’s budget, though. So if you were thinking of something without a lot of the things which make keyboardio awesome, that might make sense.

Depends a lot on how you approach things. If you take an existing firmware, such as QMK or Kaleidoscope, and you do not need or want anything they don’t already provide, then a programmable keyboard is about the same cost as a non-programmable one. The difference is likely in customer support. With a non-programmable one, you don’t need to debug flashing issues, or help with botched firmware, or deal with feature requests.

In other words, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t - or shouldn’t - increase the manufacturing cost noticeably.

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Hmmm. But that’s because the firmware needs to be installed in the first place whether you allow users to later modify it or not (do I see the GPLv3 tivoisation clause raising its head?) and that makes it no difference right?

Yep, it needs to be installed anyway.

You can program the MCU without a bootloader, so those who want to change it, will have to get a programmer. You can also provide the source code. GPL is fulfilled, everyone’s happy. Why? Because you can still void warranty if someone reflashes (because they need to open up the keyboard, and that falls outside of the GPL’s scope), and if someone does do that, it’s not your problem. Probably not the nicest thing to do, but hey.

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The main issue is the difference in price between a general-purpose microcontroller and something purpose-built for a keyboard. My guess is that you’re looking at a cost difference of $2+ per unit.

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Thanks for that clarification @jesse, But for small numbers of sales such as expected for ergonomic keyboards, the 2 USD material cost difference is hardly worth what would be spent on “purpose building” the controller as in design and debugging right?

Ah, no. These are chips you buy from companies like NXP or Microchip. They’ve already done all the R&D.