It could be de described as the biggest botched software release of the past five years. Oratio, Orator, or whatever they're calling it these days has finally been released by Humanware with a price tag of $449. Promised since 2007, the software brings access to Blackberry smart phones. Correction, make that one AT&T Blackberry smart phone. If you bought any Blackberry phones, including some we listed as deals last summer because of the planned screen reader compatibility, you can toss them right out the window. The Blackberry Curve 8520 from AT&T is the only currently-supported phone. The Verizon Wireless or Sprint 9630 Tour, or the T-Mobile 8520 Tour are not on the supported phones list. There's also some lively discussion over on the Accessible BB website about the lack of Humanware involvement in their mailing list. No official Blackberry mailing list is known to exist at this time, other than an announce-only update stream. Still interested? orders are being taken now. If you have comments or thoughts on Oratio for Blackberry, please post them.
Here's a quote from a message on the Accessible Blackberry list from list owner Carlos Palomino:
"No matter what has taken place from July until
today, one thing has remained constant, and that is Humanware's shady
business practices and abhorrent public relations methods. So, whether
we waited patiently for news or attempted to gather info from the
company itself, we were ignored. And being the largest collection of
potential customers, it seems aweful inconsiderate and blatantly stupid
to take such a stance against us."
Other things to note about Oratio are after the jump.
Additions and corrections welcome.
- There is no free trial available. Talks and Mobile Speak both have free trials available.
- The registration process involves sending a license key to your dealer who will then return it. This process is not accessible without sighted assistance, because the phone is not talking at this point.
- The supported Blackberry Curve 8520 is only available on one network. This means that users in other countries besides the U.S. are out of luck for now.
- If you wish to move your device to a new phone, you must pay full price for a new license.
Humanware deserves this criticism, but so do CodeFactory and RIM. I've also heard that oratio doesn't even fully support the web. THis hole thing sounds pretty unreliable. I feel sorry for those who need a blackberry. I wouldn't want to deal with these morons.
austingrace Monday, 08-Feb-2010 9:50 PM ET:
i have no idea what's with them. let me give you a picture here. human ware sells the mistro trecker system witch runs windows mobile 5.0 premium edition. if i am right, this OS was released in 2003. then, the mystro software does not give full accessibility to the pda. plus, you can't set up active sync on your own. and there is a lot you can't do with the pda. and all this mess will cost you 2000 dollars. now, you can buy mobile geo, ,mobile speak and a new phone and gps reciever for 1200 or so. I will not be doing business with human ware anytime soon. and why does human ware make you jump through sooo many hoops just to authorize the software in the first place? and why does it only work on one phone? a lot needs to be asked here.
RainParade Tuesday, 09-Feb-2010 12:34 PM ET:
I read the whole manual on release day because I basically felt like going on an easter egg hunt for disappointments. Here's how that worked out. *Oratio doesn't support HTML email. One of the many things you must do to get your device set up for Oratio is change your Email to text-only. *Oratio manual has no section on browsing the web. Probably because you can't. *Oratio manual has no section on using third-party apps. Probably because, see above. *Oratio has a command for reading the whole screen, but no command for reading continuously from the cursor position. So, yeah, if you thought you were going to be reading any books or articles? Not so much. P.S. The iPhone is supporting Microsoft Exchange Server now so even corporate types shouldn't be subjected to a product like this. If security is that much of a concern get a netbook with NVDA and a 3G modem. Or a Windows Mobile phone with MobileSpeak. Or a flock of carrier pigeons. Any of these will be cheaper and work better. I think there is a strong argument to be made that your workplace can't force you into a Blackberry with the advent of this software, because this product does NOT provide equal or sufficient access to email and other productivity tools.
Striker Tuesday, 09-Feb-2010 3:30 PM ET:
Ok, While I understand that this is the first version of a product and they plan to add web support, say what they will, there is *NO REASON AT ALL THAT THIS PRODUCT IS WORTH EVEN A QUARTER OF ITS MSRP.* As someone who felt for a breef while this might be a worth wile product, I've surely been let down alot by all the delays and feature ideas that don't seem to have appeared. Just like many products, not worth the hype. and no demo, no way to activate on your own, licence only good for that device? Mobilespeak and Talks just look that much better now. Cheeper, more flexible, support way more phones and actually get support for the phones that the companies state they will, allow demo's and licence transfers, Who's actually going to buy this when there are so many more optionsworth wile ? Until humanware really razes the bar, I'm not going to be looking in the direction of a blackberry any time soon. and I'll advize that others truely think before they buy. Sorry Humanware, This feels half baked at best. Then again, It could be a product that does what it currently can well but, we have no way of checking with out locking in to something we don't even know if we'll like. Not a sound buying stratigy. Somewhat makes me think there's something to hide, or do we get a demo later on... so much potential, so little exhibited.
darknexus Tuesday, 09-Feb-2010 9:12 PM ET:
Wow, talk about an alpha-quality release product. It doesn't even come close to mobile speak or talks, let alone the iPhone. No HTML email? Seriously? One of the most basic things on the internet these days, and Oratio can't even read it? Setting your email to plain text has major drawbacks, specifically you won't be able to click on a link given to you in an email. Sure, you could copy/paste the link, but three'll get you the pot that you can't do that with Oratio. I won't even mention the web browser, I'm too disgusted to even give that one a fair hearing. Then, of course, without access to 3rd party apps (many business create them for their custom infrastructure) this is basically useless. I agree with the previous poster. With the iPhone now supporting exchange and having enterprise security and company-level control, that would be the optimal accessible solution for now. Oratio: The most expensive mobile screen reader that does the least.
jorourke Wednesday, 10-Feb-2010 2:36 PM ET:
Good Day from John O'Rourke. How could Humanware even come close to supporting this? When resources permit, I'm moving to the Iphone.
debbie Thursday, 11-Feb-2010 3:11 PM ET:
I, too, am very disappointed with Humanware. They kept promising that "orator" would appear in October of 09 and would work on both the curve and tour. And then a mysterious darkness descended. I called "customer service" (and I use this term lightly) several times to see when it was coming out. The customer service rep - and I think they must have only one since I kept getting the same person - was rude and impatient with me each time. I'm going to get an iPhone tmorrow. I love the "voiceover" on my iPod touch and look forward to using it on the iPhone.
simon4599 Sunday, 07-Mar-2010 7:26 PM ET:
Ok, I understand that the blackberry is probably difficult to program, and probably doesn't have an easy way to access the information shown on screen. But let's just assume that's true for a minute, to give humanwaste--uh, I mean humanware the benefit of the doubt. Even with the lack of features and huge number of limitations imposed upon the users of this software, and even with the limitation of the one, single, lonely little blackberry that this thing will run on, why in the world is humanware charging this much for something that looks like alpha 0.1? Seriously. If this were a free app, or even a twenty dollar, app, I might go for it. if it had a trial, which humanware could very easily implement, I would probably try it, assuming I lived in the US, which I don't, and assuming I didn't already have a phone that worked just fine, which I do. But the part that really disgusts me is that they have the gaul to charge $450 for it. I'm pretty sure that's actually more than the blackberry itself, and it's definitely more than the price of an iPhone with voiceover once you put the two prices together. It's just a joke. Humanware has always struck me as being good at a few things, like the braille note and victor reader classic. notice I don't throw the stream in that catagory. I've also never seen a problem with the meistro, though i've never owned one myself. But this is just the limit. i'm actually ashamed to be living in the same country as these idiots. What were they thinking! I've been complaining about the price of jaws and window eyes and majorly promoting NVDA all this time, but this is even worse! Jaws, in comparison to this thing that calls itself a screen reader, * gives you a trial. * gives you access to 99% of the information shown on screen * has fairly good tech support * works on all computers. Imagine if jaws only worked on the HP 8510-w, which was priced at $2000. * oh yeah, jaws is transferable to any computer, provided you don't constantly transfer your license. * oh, and it definitely reads HTML emails. I just looked up the 8520, and it's listed at $399.99. Not sure if that's accurate, but that gets you a nice $850 price tag if you want this thing to talk. I think i'll stick with my LG VX-9200, which cost me exactly $250 and probably reads more than this piece of, well, human waste does. I'm actually having second thoughts about getting an apex now, if this is the kind of crap we should expect from humanware in future. I had no idea it was this bad until I read the blog post. Oh, yeah! I just remembered that AT&T offers mobile speak for $89 anyway. Go buy a decent smartphone. At least you can activate the thing without sighted assistance. Come to think of it, isn't that another thing humanware could have easily fixed if they offered a free trial? I think my rant is done now.
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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.