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Using the Q is so complicated because of Windows Mobile. All these convolutions result from Microsoft’s belief that the user should have lots of options and be made constantly aware of what is happening inside his or her computer.

It’s like driving a car with a manual transmission: control at the expense of convenience. Copy a new file onto the Q and you frequently need to click “Menu/Refresh” in the Windows File Manager to make the file appear. Try to send a message, and you’ll need to select whether you want to use SMS (the Short Message Service for sending text messages between cell phones), Outlook e-mail, mail from other e-mail providers, or MMS (for sending multimedia messages between cell phones). But a single program with multiple drill-down menus doesn’t reflect the way people use these different services. My Treo has one program for SMS, which works great for chat with a lot of quick back-and-forths, and a completely different application for e-mail. Each application is geared to the context in which a user is likely to use it.

It’s possible to build software that tries to understand the user’s context and act accordingly. Apple’s iTunes, for instance, copies music to your iPod in the background and lets you set up playlists even when your iPod is not connected. The software doesn’t have many options, but it’s an elegant, ­context-­aware interface.

A final way in which the Q duplicates the Windows experience is with cryptic error messages and frequent crashes. I tried to listen to my local public-radio station’s Windows Media stream and got the message “Alert: An unknown error 0X80070057 has occurred.” When I was evaluating the Q, I got many messages telling me that a program called gwes.exe had crashed. “Please tell Microsoft about this problem,” the phone requested.

Mike Booth was right: my 10-plus years of experience with Microsoft Windows on the desktop gave me the insight I needed to diagnose and repair the recurring problem with gwes.exe. I rebooted.

Simson Garfinkel researches computer forensics at the Harvard Center for Research on Computation and Society.

Motorola Q
$199.99, with a two-year contract for cellular-telephone service from Verizon Wireless

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