Tech talk: SPV shows dangers of releasing too early

Despite its innovation, users are losing patience with Orange's Windows-based smartphone SPV shows dangers of releasing too...

Despite its innovation, users are losing patience with Orange's Windows-based smartphone SPV shows dangers of releasing too early

It has been four months since I bought my Orange SPV - a Windows-powered smartphone - and each day that goes by it becomes more and more tedious. I am convinced it hates me. Never before have I come across a piece of technology that is so counterproductive.

Take, for instance, last Monday. I was due to interview Steve Gill, the UK managing director of Hewlett-Packard. Gill likes to start early and this meant the interview was to be held over the phone at 7:30 am. I was running ever so slightly late when I checked my watch at 7:28 and downed a cup of strong coffee. Still, I thought, there was just enough time to switch on the SPV, type in the Pin and be ready for the 7:30 interview. No chance.

First, the power on button decided it would not respond. It took three attempts before the phone lit up with the Orange welcome screen.

Then, it decided to run in ultra-slow mode: this sometimes happens to my SPV - usually when I am in a hurry. If you have not experienced this, it is a bit like when Windows on a PC is running out of memory: menus take ages to respond, and in your frustration, you keep pressing buttons. When the SPV finally catches up, it has gone past the function you wanted to use and you have to click through the menus again. In the end I gave up and reached for the landline.

Was it just my phone? Had I been sold a dud? Should I return it to Orange? And, before you ask, I have downloaded and updated the SPV software from the Orange website.

It appears I am not the only one who has experienced serious usability problems with the SPV. I know of at least one person, who is involved with Orange, who refuses to use the SPV any more. A few Microsoft people I have spoken to also seem unhappy with their company's new smartphone. Some even regret they have to use it within Microsoft.

Jessica Figueras of analyst firm Ovum recently summed up our apathy when she described Microsoft's smartphone operating system as a "typical Microsoft product", complete with bugs and system crashes.

I would argue that Microsoft has really shot itself in the foot. People buy Nokia phones because they work and they are usually very reliable. Nokia is renowned for intuitive menus and a slick user interface. I have never needed to remove the battery pack on the many Nokias I have owned to force the phone to reboot, but it is a weekly, if not daily occurance with the SPV.

If the SPV experience is anything to go by, the Windows-powered smartphone operating system has fallen at the first hurdle. Orange and Microsoft should never have released a product which is clearly still a work in progress. No matter how smart it is, a mobile phone needs to do the basics. Perhaps understandably, Orange now appears to be backing the Symbian-powered Sony Ericsson P800.

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