AOL, RocketBoard Forge Marketing, Equity Partnership

America Online on Tuesday reached agreement with RocketBoard.com, the maker of a modified keyboard that features a special row of 18 buttons, to assign three of those buttons to AOL destinations.

As part of the deal, AOL is taking a minority stake in the startup. The two companies have also agreed to create a co-branded version of the keyboard. The boards will be distributed for free through RocketBoard’s Web site.

Financial terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed.

The deal calls for RocketBoard to assign the primary position on three so-called RocketKeys to AOL, AOL Instant messenger, and Email. When users press these keys, they’ll be directly taken to the AOL service. Non-AOL members will get an opportunity to register for AOL. AOL will be the only ISP to appear on the RocketBoard product.

The alliance is a coup for RocketBoard, in that this is its first deal with a major company. The agreement, and AOL’s decision to take a piece of the company, lends it instant credibility as it negotiates with other companies and licenses them buttons on the keyboard.

The deal includes a cross-promotion element. RocketBoard will promote AOL, on its packaging and Web page, and will include AOL software with each keyboard sent out.

The RocketKey categories include entertainment, travel, shopping, sports, email, and health & beauty. The company expects to start shipping the keyboards in April.

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