Thursday, June 08, 2006

More lousy software on phones

Palm began as a software company hoping to sell its writing system and OS to palm top device manufacturers. Unfortunately, all of the device manufacturers failed, so Palm invested a great deal of time observing how human beings might use such devices, and then launched the Palm itself.

Although Palm was extremely successful for a while, and the Palm OS continues to set the standard for small device ease-of-use, it seems to be eclipsed by Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system. This is a shame, because Windows Mobile is horrible to use. David Pogue writes about the how ghastly the new Motorola Q phone is to use:
Example 1: After you take a picture with the camera, what options would you want to be immediately available? Maybe Save, Send and Delete? Not on this phone. These options are all hiding in menus; activating Send, for example, requires four more button presses. (On the Treo: one.)

Example 2: What if you want to edit an entry in your address book? Hey — it could happen. You can't just highlight a name, open the menu, and choose Edit; there's no Edit command. Instead, Microsoft wants you to open that address book "card" first and then open the menu. Total steps: four. (Treo: two.)

Example 3 (this one is really annoying): Q comes with about 25 preinstalled programs: Tasks, Voice Notes, Internet Explorer, Solitaire and so on. You get to them by pressing a button labeled Start, a riff on the familiar Windows Start menu.

If only it really were a menu! Instead, you see jumbo icons. Only six of them fit on the screen at once (three across, two rows). If you want a program on the last row, you have to scroll seven times, pausing each time to make sure you haven't overshot, by pressing the down-arrow key (or turning the notched thumbwheel).

Why no list-view option? Better yet, why can't you type the first letter of the program you want, as on the Treo? On the Q, that whole alphabet keyboard just sits there, wasted.


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